Film review: Unlikely romance loses its spark in soulless sojourn

The pace is so lethargic that the film’s 110-minute running time begins to feel like an eternity. (Supplied)
Updated 27 March 2019

Film review: Unlikely romance loses its spark in soulless sojourn

  • “Photograph” tries to be subtle and soft, but fails to connect on an emotional level

It is probably fair to say that director Ritesh Batra’s Sundance Film Festival premiere, “Photograph,” is unlikely to become one of his standout movies.
Pitted against his masterly 2013 debut work “The Lunchbox,” and his stirring “Our Souls at Night” in 2017, “Photograph” has the feel and texture of an old-world romance. It is leisurely and laid back but lacks the spirit of his earlier films.
In a way “Photograph” is similar to the Cannes premiered “The Lunchbox,” which traces the anguish of an ageing widower and a lonely, neglected young wife, whose handwritten notes, sent through Mumbai’s famously efficient lunchbox system, evoke affection as the pair build a fantasy world together.
However, “Photograph” explores a seemingly impossible relationship, this time between an upper-class educated girl and a street-corner lensman.
Mumbai and its iconic structures provide the backdrop to the unlikely story of Miloni (Sanya Malhotra) and Rafi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui). 
Struggling street photographer Rafi, pressured to marry by his grandmother, convinces shy stranger Miloni to pose as his fiancée. The pair develop a connection that transforms them in ways they could not have expected.
But Batra never makes it clear why an attractive and well-to-do Miloni gravitates toward Rafi, who takes snaps of visitors around Mumbai’s famous Gateway of India monument. 
Instead, Batra paints a quaint picture of an era when romance played out through stolen glances and coy touches, instead of mobile phone texts and social media. 
“Photograph” tries to be subtle and soft, but fails to connect on an emotional level, leaving several questions hanging. The pace is so lethargic that the film’s 110-minute running time begins to feel like an eternity.
Malhotra (whose performance in “Dangal” was a high point) impresses with her understated mannerisms and ability to sink into the moody, melancholic character of Miloni. But Siddiqui stutters and stumbles in the face of an underwritten part, and the bond between them does not gel.
Peter Raeburn’s music is intrusive to the point of extinguishing what few traces of affectionate warmth exist in Batra’s script. In the end, “Photograph” seems a soulless sojourn.

Watch the railer here:


Experimental artist Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim to represent UAE at 2022 Venice Biennale

Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim will represent the UAE. (National Pavilion UAE La Biennale Di Venezia/Augustine Paredes)
Updated 29 September 2020

Experimental artist Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim to represent UAE at 2022 Venice Biennale

DUBAI: Based in the seaport town of Khor Fakkan, in the exclave of the emirate of Sharjah, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim is one of the UAE’s earliest experimental artists. His handcrafted, colorful and whimsical installations and sculptural works respond to his natural surroundings, particularly to the desert and sea landscapes of his homeland.

“My connection with the natural landscapes of the UAE has inspired my work since I was a teenager,” said the artist to Arab News. “In exhibiting at the Venice Biennale, I feel I will be sharing an aspect of my home and culture with many other nations and starting a dialogue with other exhibitions presenting aspects of their own homes and cultures. For an artist, this is an exciting and creatively enriching opportunity to engage with some of the world’s most intriguing artists and concepts.”

Ibrahim was an influential member of the UAE’s avant-garde art community that formed during the early 1980s. His work has been acquired by major public and private institutions throughout the world, including the British Museum, Centre Pompidou, the Sharjah Art Foundation, Art Jameel and the Barjeel Art Foundation. His work was included in the Kochi-Muziris Biennial 2016 and most recently, at Desert X AlUla. Currently on view is Ibrahim’s solo exhibition Memory Drum, at the Lawrie Shabibi art gallery in Alserkal Avenue, Dubai.

Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim will represent the UAE. (National Pavilion UAE La Biennale Di Venezia/Augustine Paredes)

Ibrahim’s work will be featured in a solo exhibition at the National Pavilion UAE for the 2022 edition of La Biennale di Venezia, curated by Maya Allison of the New York University Abu Dhabi Art Gallery.

“Mohamed’s work is singular and immediately recognizable, yet constantly developing,” said Allison to Arab News. “He draws directly on his environment and reflects the changing world around him, with a deep trust in his own particular process. Venice will mark our fifth collaboration, yet his work continues to surprise me, even as it retains a distinct visual style, demonstrating a profoundly developed artistic voice.”

The mission of the National Pavilion UAE has long been to curate and provide a platform for the untold stories of the UAE.

“With that in mind, we have made a conscious decision to move toward a more artist-led approach to exhibition development, using our global platform to highlight the UAE’s incredible community of well-established artists whose work deserves international recognition,” said Layla Binbrek, coordinating director of the National Pavilion UAE.

Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim will represent the UAE. (National Pavilion UAE La Biennale Di Venezia/Augustine Paredes)

“Following the success of our 2019 solo exhibition by Nujoom Alghanem, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim’s remarkable form-led practice and organic, handcrafted works — which are physically and conceptually deeply rooted in the unique natural landscape of his home in Khor Fakkan — made him a very fitting choice for our next pavilion,” she added.

Ibrahim’s prolific body of work captures the UAE’s multifaceted community and natural environment through an organic and endearing approach to abstraction. His figures retain an emotional and life-like sensibility that all can relate to.

“Mohamed’s practice, extending back to the 1980s, is extraordinarily rich and varied,” explained William Lawrie, co-founder of Lawrie Shabibi. “He’s one of those rare artists who creates truly automatically and from his subconscious.”