Photograph is what happens when you take a sweet idea and stretch it for too long.
To be fair, the movie does boast a handful of good scenes, some of which even feature moments that leave a lasting impression. But a few engaging scenes and a drop of touching moments a good film do not make. Plus, whatever sequences manage to hold your attention come to a screeching halt at the halfway mark, rendering writer-Director Ritesh Batra’s sophomore Bollywood outing (he has made a short film and two Hollywood feature films in-between) not even a half-decent effort, and not a patch on his masterpiece, The Lunchbox.
The basic concept of the narrative being centered on a chance encounter, involving a photograph, between two strangers, which draws them close to each other, gets lost in translation as the film moves forward.
Both the characters and the plot deteriorate into vague territory, with several scenes (even a few of those brilliant moments) meeting an abrupt roadblock, jarringly moving onto the next (editor John F. Lyons and Batra equally share the blame here). Also, while Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s character graph remains constant, in no small part due to it being fairly simple, Sanya Malhotra’s characterization becomes increasingly muddled, with multiple loopholes, posing more questions than offering answers.
Compounding things further, is Batra’s desire to make pseudo-intellectual statements about love and life, rather than focus on developing a relatable plot. For all his endeavor to weave a realistic romance, his script, characters, their motives, and decisions skirt unrealistic, irrational waters far too often. For instance, it’s one thing for someone to take a sharp detour in life to fulfill a long-supressed yearning, but it’s entirely different for the same person to crave for a paradigm shift, ready to uproot their entire existence, and embrace a sharp descent in their cultural and status-quo, after just a few instances during said detour.
The excessive use of Gujarati also doesn’t help. When will these modern-day, so-called realistic Hindi filmmakers realize that if you’re making a Hindi film, then you should make a Hindi film, or else stand the risk of alienating your audience and hurting your film’s chances.
It’s credit then to both Nawaz and Sanya that despite all its flaws, they manage to switch Photograph from ‘unwatchable’ to ‘barely watchable’ territory. Sanya, in particular, is the heart and soul of the film, earnestly doing her best to steady proceedings during their myriad dips. She even towers over Nawaz (as good as always, but doesn’t get a role as complex as his costar) in several scenes, presenting a blueprint of how to impeccably underplay a part when it’s the need of the hour. Over just four films (Dangal, Pataakha, Badhaai Ho, Photograph), Sanya Malhotra has displayed more range and versatility than many actresses do through their entire careers. The remainder of the cast hardly leave a mark, again, due to their half-baked parts.
If you must watch Photograph, watch it for Sanya and Sanya alone. Besides her (and Nawaz to an extent), there’s nothing much to write home about.
Movified Rating: 1.5/5 stars