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Photo Prem Takes Time To Click

Photo Prem(Amazon Prime, Marathi)

Starring Neena Kulkarni, Directed by Aditya Rathi & Gayatri Patel

Rating: ** ½

This is  a brave   film. Brave  and  slight.   Or so it seems  from the outside. A film about an average  housewife , played by  the  redoubtable Neena Kulkarni, getting on in life suddenly comes up with a  throbbing fear:  there is  no  decent photograph  of hers anywhere.What if tomorrow, or for that matter today, she dies? What  would her family  use  in the obituary?

This  would hardly seem  like  a topic for a full-fledged  feature  film. I mean  talking for myself, once I am  gone  what  do I care what others  do with my  memory? But to  Sunanda Kulkarni(the watchable  Neena Kulkarni) it’s a problem that keeps her restless awake, fidgety and anxious.

   Not that anyone notices. Her  poor husband(Vikas  Hande) is  too engrossed  in the rituals  of day-to-day existence  to even notice how agitated  his wife is, and  why.And even if she did  confide in her  husband, what would his reaction be?  I can think of several, none  of them  nice.

Photo Prem  understands the rhythms  of  daily drudgery and how it can be erased in one  single moment when  the heart stops beating. But the mood of  the mundane is  way too  deeply entrenched  in the narrative. We  never get a  sense  of Sunanda despair  , as her awareness  of her desolation and mortality  grow on her, the  narrative seems more amused by her anxieties than  concerned.

Throughout  the 90-minute  film we feel Sunanda will reach   that moment  of selfwareness when something in her  mind will ….click(pun intended). Rather than wrap its head around Sundanda’s deeper  dilemma,   the  narrative chooses to swim in shallow waters, concentrating more the  hysteria around sudden  deaths and  on that  one  decent picture of  Sunanda(in case….) rather than what that  picture represents  in her  mind(self-awareness, dignity,self-respect, a sense  of identity)?

 More than  a study  of an  average housewife’s ordinary dreams, Photo Prem  “reads”(you can close your eyes and hear the plot since  the  dialogues revel in explanations)  like  Sunanda’s adventures in a photo frame.There are episodes in a rickety  photo studio and in  a posh glamour studio . There is neighbouring girl who comes and  clicks Sunanda’s pictures  with an  old  camera that Sunanda   finds. There are endless  shots of Sunanda being snapped and being snapped at(by her  husband, neighbour, maid, random photographer , etc). 

Sadly  we  never move to  the protagonist’s deeper problem. Neena Kukarni’s sparkling presence  and  a  delightful househelp played  by  Chaitrali Rode(though her sarees look too starched ) who bonds with Sunanda are the  only  reason to  say ‘Smile  Please; in this photo-generic   misfire.

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