<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Anurag Basu. Starring Ranbir Kapoor, Ileana D’Cruz, Priyanka Chopra, Saurabh Shukla.
The trailers don’t try to make this film look anything other than offbeat, perhaps causing it to be released in selected theatres but that also assures my attendance since I’m not a big fan of most ‘mass, leave your brains at home, masala Bollywood films’! But now I can finally say with pride that we can make good films that are worthy of being screened the world over.
Barfi to me, and most with a sweet tooth, is an Indian sweet dish. But in the film Barfi (Ranbir Kapoor) is the mispronounced name of our protagonist Murphy (named after a popular brand of radios made in the 70s. Why, you’ll find out when you watch!) who due to his being deaf and dumb can’t really pronounce it. However, just like the dessert, Barfi the boy has all the sweetness and joy to put smiles on the faces of those around him.
How many of our Indian film ‘actors’ can go through an entire film without saying a word? Or even without looking like they’ve just walked off a fashion ramp? Sure Ranbir has copied a lot of things from Charlie Chaplin and some of the other silent comedies that some of us grew up on. But he’s done it effortlessly and with just as much charm and grace. Chaplin would certainly be proud.
This story of Barfi’s infatuation for a girl called Shruti (Ileana D’Cruz) that starts off in Darjeeling and continues in Kolkata and flip flops between time zones: present day, 1978 and 1972. This doesn’t get confusing at all thought since director and editor have blended them seamlessly and caringly together. Just as they’ve woven this delicate and lovely relationship that doesn’t have a cliché ending. Perhaps an autistic girl called Jhilmil (Priyanka Chopra) has something to do with it. And as you may expect the critics may not completely agree with the authenticity of her portrayal of someone with autism. But fuck them!
I’m not telling you the story, yes that’s true. Because it would ruin it for you if I gave you prosaic details like ‘Barfi does this and then Shruti’s mother says no don’t fall for him and then Jhilmil’s father wants her trust money…’ etc etc. Instead let me tell you that the music by Pritam is sublime. Never before have I heard such lyrics and compositions in a Hindi film. Yes definitely in the good old days when songs had a story to tell. Certainly not in a day and age that plays item numbers at Ganpati mandals that would make a local prostitute blush! No this is classic stuff, very international. Just perfect to complement the magical visuals. Hollywood films like Hugo and French film Amelie came to mind for some reason.
And in Chaplin style director Anurag Basu (Gangster, Life… In a Metro) has given an effect to the actions of Barfi that looks a tad jerky at times to simulate the slow frame rate of the silent films when they almost looked like figures in a flip (flick) book. Nice touch.
Ranbir, ahh Ranbir. He may not be good to the ladies he dates (apparently) but he’s good to the camera. He knocks all our ‘big’ stars down really. Honestly, even Aamir Khan is nothing compared to this guy.
Ileana D’Cruz in her debut big feature film has done admirably well. The honesty and the emotion are natural. Priyanka Chopra’s character can be a bit irritating at times but hey, that’s how she’s meant to be (and NO I don’t mean that autistic people are irritating!). And Priyanka has done well. It’s not a big role. It’s not a glam role. People who’re used to seeing her all dolled up will probably laugh out loud watching her playing a mentally challenged awkward girl with the mind of a 12 year old. But which other ‘big’ actress apart from Vidya Balan would do this? I’m guessing there’ll be a lot more lining up after this film!
It’s magical, funny, heart warming, intriguing, unique, well made and thought through. You must watch Barfi! and savour it. I know it’s probably the first Hindi film that I want to watch again.
PS: Everyone’s so upset with Anurag Basu and Barfi! for ripping off old classic films. But 90% of our films are copied in some way or other. And copied very, very badly. Credit to these guys for copying so well! I think we’re more disappointed that a film we really liked isn’t original. Well sadly that probably won’t change.