Rafi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) works hard to get by. He takes pictures at the Gateway of India in Mumbai for tourists just to make ends meet. He works long hours carrying a heavy digital printer so folks can have their pictures immediately.
One day, he talks an attractive young Indian woman into having her photo taken. While he prints it, before she’s paid him, she disappears into the crowd. When he goes home to the small room he shares with a few other friends, he finds out, via the very impressive rumor mill, that his elderly grandmother has stopped taking her medication. Why? Because Rafi has yet to secure a bride. Remembering the woman whose photo he took that day, he writes to his “Dadi,” telling her that he’s found someone. He prints another copy of the photo and includes it in the letter, passing her off as his fiancé.
Miloni (Sanya Malhotra) studies hard to become an accountant. She’s from an upper-middle class family and her mind is on one thing, finishing school. It seems that her family isn’t pushing her toward marriage but letting her follow whatever path she chooses. An attractive young woman, she avoids prospective suitors. On her way home one day, passing the Gateway of India, a street photographer stops her and she allows him to take her picture, but she spots someone she doesn’t want to see and disappears before she pays him.
When Rafi’s grandma decides she’s coming from his home village to Mumbai to meet his new betrothed, Rafi seeks out Miloni and asks her to meet Dadi. Intrigued, she agrees.
Thus begins an unlikely relationship between Rafi and Miloni that crosses strictly drawn caste lines. “Photograph,” written and directed by Ritesh Batra, brings Miloni into a world she knows little of, that of the poor of her city. In her conversations with Dadi and Rafi, she finds that their cares and worries are similar to her own: how to make a way in the world and live a happy, fulfilled life.
The film moves along at a gentle pace, reflecting the gentleness and generosity of Miloni in playing along with Rafi’s charade. As she and Rafi get to know each other over the course of many meetings, they develop a connection with each other that neither of them expected. Each is transformed is his/her own way.
The loveliness of this film (in Hindi with English subtitles) shines through in the openness each character has to the other person’s good. Rafi’s desire for Dadi’s good health leads him to make a rash choice to deceive the old lady. Lying is never good but Rafi’s ruse brings into his life a light that he would have otherwise never experienced in Miloni. For her part, Miloni opens her heart to Dadi and Rafi. She could have told him to get lost and suffer the consequences of his letter to Dadi but she doesn’t. Instead, she goes along with it, eventually genuinely enjoying her time spent with both of them.
“Photograph” reminds us to open our eyes and our hearts to what God chooses to show us each day. We can never know what hidden gems might be awaiting us in a chance encounter or unforeseen circumstance. Only if our eyes, ears, and hearts are open to God’s presence in and around us will we experience the joy and wonder that can be had when we least expect it.
"Photograph" is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video.