• Golden Globe Awards

Photograph (India)

Indian writer/director Ritesh Batra’s Photograph follows his popular The Lunchbox (2013), after a tenure in Hollywood. Woven through a seemingly linear narrative, Photograph subtly presents the audience with contemplations on love and memory. The story is about the fleeting encounter of middle-aged Rafi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), a photographer who struggles to make a living by snapping photos of tourists on the streets of Mumbai, and Miloni (Sanya Malhotra), an upper-middle-class girl who finds herself at odds with her parents’ plan to turn her into a well-to-do, US-educated accountant.On a personal level, the film speaks of the unconventional nature of love. In fact, it is because of the need to conform to – not oppose – the demands of society, that the two heroes meet. Miloni is not unhappy but is quietly yearning for something else, something of her own. Rafi, already in his 40s, wanders the streets with no clear aim, but a vague wish to satisfy the desire of his grandmother to see him married before she dies. At first, Miloni is but another pretty face amidst the crowd, who absentmindedly accepts to have her picture taken. But when she takes off leaving the photograph with Rafi, he gets an idea. What if he told his grandmother that he is engaged and that this is the image of his fiancée? Things become complicated, of course, when the trick succeeds all too well, and Rafi’s grandmother demands that she meet the girl. Unexpectedly, Miloni agrees to play the game. While they both engage in an intricate plot so that the old lady remains blissfully ignorant about her grandson’s harsh reality, a mutually loving, though secret, tenderness begins to emerge.The film strikes a deeper chord, however, when the audience is willing to listen to the silences and the intervals of this gentle-natured story. It is interesting that the nostalgic feeling for a simpler life, unburdened by extraneous ambitions, is not expressed by Rafi or even his grandmother, but by the young Miloni. When she is finally able to voice her own vision for the future, she pictures herself in a small village, taking a nap under a tree … an image borrowed by the life of her family’s maid. And it is Rafi’s loving humility that helps her find the courage to envision her own bliss – away from the path to the material progress of a country that is rapidly morphing into a westernized variety while purposefully neglecting its collective memory.But though things are changing, and we are powerless against the tide of the times, the film reminds us that we are still free to choose to stay connected to the memories of ourselves and the overlapping worlds that we carry inside. Likewise, Batra made a meaningful return to his own roots with Photograph. “When you’re working with your own writing, you’re more intimately familiar with it,” he said in a recent the Los Angeles Times interview. “You can feel it in your bones.”