Stars: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sanya Malhotra, Farrukh Jaffar
Writer-director Batra revisits the Mumbai of his lovely 2013 epistolary picture, ‘The Lunchbox’ for another affecting tale of lonely souls making a connection in the big city. Thankfully it’s more of a refinement than a rehash. Rafi (Nawazudin) is a mild-mannered, middle-aged man scrimping and saving in Mumbai by taking pictures of tourists outside of The Gateway of India in order to clear a family debt back in his village. One day he takes the picture of Miloni (Malhotra), a shy, slightly withdrawn middle-class accountancy student. When Rafi’s fearsome grandmother Dadi (delightful octogenarian Jaffar), who has been pressurising him to get married, turns up in Mumbai, Rafi, to placate her, shows her the photograph claiming that Miloni is his fiancée. He tracks Miloni down and surprisingly she agrees to go along with the pretence and meet Dadi. The set-up sounds like a Hollywood screwball comedy, but from these unlikely elements Batra fashions a melancholy but deeply humane tale, eschewing grand emoting and swooning romanticism in favour of telling gestures and moments of tentative connecting. As the romance unspools the director explores the differences in social class, contrasting Miloni’s rather stuffy dwelling with the dilapidated but welcoming hovel Rafi shares with his jocular fellow workers, without romanticising the latter. The leads deliver soulful performances, while the photography locates a real grounded beauty in Mumbai’s starkly differing locales, from cramped interiors to bustling streets.