Mumbai-set romance takes its time to charm viewers

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"Photograph" materializes so softly and so delicately that one worries it may never come into focus.

It turns out that's one of its charms. This Mumbai-set tale is a gentle whisper of a film, taking its time to slowly lull viewers into its headspace.   

Nawazuddin Siddiqui is Rafi, a kindhearted Mumbai street photographer who takes shots of tourists and passersby in front of local landmarks. He's working hard to pay down his family's debts, and he's fighting off pressures from his grandmother, Dadi (Farrukh Jaffar), who wishes to see him married and has stopped taking her medicine until he does. 

Rafi shows Dadi a photo of Miloni (Sanya Malhotra), a stranger he shot one day on the street, passing her off as his fiancé. She's delighted. Under pressure from Dadi, Rafi tracks her down, and convinces her to play along in his scheme. 

They're from opposite ends of the social spectrum — Rafi is poor, Miloni is middle-class — but their situation leads to a unique bond, if not a wholly convincing romance. 

It's a familiar storytelling premise, sure — the old switcheroo! — but writer-director Ritesh Batra ("Our Souls at Night," "The Sense of an Ending") fills in the frame with minor details, from the rats scurrying across Miloni's feet in a Mumbai movie house to Rafi going to great lengths to track down a bottle of Campa Cola.

"Photograph" has a ways to go to sell its central love story. But Batra's touch is so tender that "Photograph" builds a sweetness that overcompensates for its shortcomings. Like a photo, it just takes time to develop. 

'Photograph'

GRADE: B-

Rated PG-13: for some thematic material

Running time: 110 minutes

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

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