OTTAWA’S CINEMA FOR INTERNATIONAL AND INDEPENDENT MOVIES

Photograph

By the director of The Lunchbox

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Ritesh Batra’s Mumbai-set romance Photograph is a lovely, charming and gently transporting journey.

Poster for the romantic drama from India, PhotographThe movie’s setup – a love-challenged guy tries to pass off a pretty stranger as his fiancée to resuscitate his ailing grandma – may evoke some studio star-vehicle. But Batra (The Lunchbox) does anything but lean into the story’s potential for rom-com hijinks. It is his understated approach that makes Batra’s film such a tender and winning tonic.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays Rafi, a transplant from a poor village in northern India who works as a street photographer at Mumbai’s famed tourist attraction, ‘Gateway Of India’. One day, Miloni (Sanya Malhotra), a shy, middle-class student, wanders by and reluctantly agrees to have her picture taken. But she disappears without paying, and all that’s left is a winsome snapshot and a fleeting connection between two lonely souls.

That is, until Rafi learns that his beloved grandmother, Dadi (Farrukh Jaffar, in a standout performance) has stopped taking her medicine in a last-ditch attempt (OK, blackmail effort) to force Rafi to find a wife. Rafi sends Dadi the photo of Miloni with a concocted story about their romance. But when grandma announces a trip to Mumbai to meet Rafi’s intended, the tale kicks into motion as he tracks down Miloni and convinces her to go along with his scheme.

And, oh, what a memorable force of nature grandma turns out to be. Wise, wizened, deceptively hearty and shamelessly frank, she puts Rafi and Miloni in her eagle-eyed sights and the pair modestly convince her of their bond.

From there, this introspective tale becomes less about the grandma gambit and more about the gingerly ways in which the two characters inch their way closer to one another. Deftly touching upon such big-picture themes as class, religion, tradition, family and happiness, Photograph is a beautiful, resonant film.

– Gary Goldstein, The Los Angeles Times

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