Sundance 2019: "Photograph" Review

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Photograph is a good example of how some stories in cinema are universal. It is a slow burn romance about a struggling street photographer named Rafi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) in Mumbai who is feeling the heat from his grandmother to get married. He doesn’t just catch it from his grandmother, but his entire community seems to know how dire the situation is and they constantly remind him of it. After a chance encounter with prospective customer Miloni (Sanya Malhotra), whom he retains her photograph, Rafi does what any stubborn person would do in that situation; he makes it seem as though Miloni is his new boo.

For people of a certain age, the pressure from family and friends to get married is prevalent, and even more so in certain cultures. Both Rafi and Miloni seem to be stuck somewhere in between wanting companionship but wanting it on their own terms. After persuading Miloni to go along with the ruse, the two meet daily with Rafi’s grandmother Dadi (Farrukh Jaffar). As the film continues, little by little, the ruse seems to turn in to something real.

Farrukh Jaffar is absolutely stellar as Rafi’s grandmother! She’s too old to care how loud she is when she’s talking to you and her “mother’s heart”, as she calls it, doesn’t want to die without seeing Rafi married off. Every moment she’s on screen feels more like a documentary than a narrative film because she’s so authentic. Siddiqui and Malhotra give very reserved, internal performances as the main characters. Their eyes are the only way into their feelings.

While the film soars in building the budding love, writer/director Ritesh Batra asks his audience to take a journey that seems to start, stop, reverse and move forward. There  are multiple scenes that are shown and then shown again down the line with more details revealed in such a way that doesn’t continue pushing the story forward but rather makes you question why it wasn’t revealed before. As Rafi makes a major attempt at winning Miloni over, we’re left wanting. With an almost two hour run time watching this romance bloom, one could ask if the ruse is on the viewer? 

Rating: C+

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Kevin Sampson

The fact that Kevin Sampson is not just a film critic, but a writer, producer, and director as well makes his understanding of cinema even better. Coming from a theoretical and hands on approach, he understands both sides of the struggle of viewing and creating great works. After receiving an MFA in Film & Electronic Media from American University in Washington, D.C in 2011, Kevin took his love for film to the next level by creating and producing Picture Lock, an entertainment website, podcast, and hour long film review TV show that runs on Arlington Independent Media’s public access station in Arlington, VA. The show covers new releases, classic films, and interviews with local filmmakers in the DMV area. He is also a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association and African American Film Critics Association. He is currently looking forward to filming his first feature film in the near future. He believes that film is one of the most powerful art forms in the world, and he hopes that he can use the craft to inspire others and make a difference in it.