Cast: Akash Sinha, Farrukh Jaffar, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sanya Malhotra
Official Selection, 2019 Berlin International Film Festival
Official Selection, 2019 Sundance Film Festival
Working the crowds at the Gateway of India is the soft-spoken Rafi, who makes a living snapping photos of tourists posing in front of the famed arch. One such visitor is the kind of client someone like him (working-class, Muslim, dark-skinned) should never meet again, the youthful and educated Miloni, whose parents have big plans for her: marriage and a well-paying job in accounting. When Rafi’s grandmother starts hounding him about getting married himself, he mails her a copy of Miloni’s photograph to keep her at bay. The plan backfires, sending grandma to the city to meet her future granddaughter-in-law. Rafi can only think of one solution: track down Miloni, who as it turns out, has reasons of her own to go along with the ruse.
Suddenly, two strangers are intrigued by the possibility of alternative versions of themselves, ones in the key of the old Bollywood ballads that swirl around them every day. Their performance of love sets the stage for their longing of it, however improbable. As in Ritesh Batra’s breakthrough The Lunchbox, romance emerges from quiet movements across everyday spaces and the passing of objects imbued with unlikely emotions. Batra is a master of old-fashioned love stories, and here is especially inspired by classic Bollywood, from the Lata Mangeshkar song to the casting of veteran Farrukh Jaffar as the aging grandmother, culminating in a closing scene that suggests so poignantly the unshakeable power of cinema in the romantic imagination. –Brian Hu
Sat Apr 13