By Kunal Guha/Movie Reviews
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Ileana D'Cruz, Rupa Ganguly
Directed by Anurag Basu
When a movie begins by revealing the grim end, no matter how cheerful the following flashback journey may be, you’re left dreading the inevitable.
But ‘Barfi!’ manages to make you forget just that by narrating a lighthearted tragedy that wins particularly for what it doesn’t do: It doesn’t draw a pitiful picture of the deaf-mute lead. It doesn’t attempt to do anything that would suggest that it has been made to attract foreign festival ferns on the DVD cover. It doesn’t make the lead character overcome his disability to do something no man, woman or dog (without that disability) would ever think of attempting.
Still foggy? Here’s what it doesn’t do: Click here to learn how to make a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film in a few easy steps.
Barfi! is a whistled version of Murphy, the name of our deaf and mute hero (Ranbir Kapoor) or how he would call himself.
He sits on the fence between village idiot and neighbourhood prankster in the lovely hill station of Darjeeling. Set in the 1970s, we’re ushered into his world, where every action has an equal and amusing reaction.
Tweak his nose and it will remain temporarily twisted. Pull his finger and he will emit gas. He can be described as Chaplin meets Mr Bean meets Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. And with words out of the way, Barfi’s actions score in the loudness competition hands down.
So when Shruti (Ileana D’Cruz), a Bong babe on a holiday, comes into his line of vision, he instantly applies all his non-verbal abilities to voice his heart. After initially brushing aside her feelings, she gives in.
But wait, she is engaged to a certain someone else and is due to get married in a month. Naturally, Barfi’s muted explosion of sorrow follows. But just like the song, ‘he gets knocked down and then he gets up again’ to find comfort in childhood friend Jhilmil (Priyanka Chopra).
Jhilmil is an autistic girl who has deceptive parents and a whole lot of inheritance from a recently deceased grandpa. The love story drifts into a suspense thriller when Jhilmil goes missing, while her parents claim that she has been kidnapped.
Inspector Dutta (Saurabh Shukla) wants to get to the bottom of the case as he can’t make much from the two different ransom notes that are discovered. Will Jhilmil ever be found? Will Barfi end up with a laddoo for his courtship efforts or be rewarded with a peda? Will Ileana D’Cruz have to book her return ticket to Telugu films? These questions are best left unanswered for they may give away more than you want to read here.
The film allows the viewer to experience a range of emotions and even if it doesn’t invite much empathy, it keeps you interested, attentive and anxious to learn what will unfold next. While marriages and suspense thrillers only work till someone gets caught, here the story sails through even after you’ve figured it all out, without making you check your cellphone or visit the washroom.
If Ranbir Kapoor would’ve debuted with ‘Barfi!’ instead of the disastrous ‘Saawariya’, he would’ve become Bollywood’s sweetheart right away. Putting his back into the character, Ranbir manages to convey a diversity of moods wordlessly and doesn’t resort to hamming which was very possible here, considering he was left to play dumb charades through the film.
Even Priyanka Chopra pulls off her character with just the right amount of abnormality, easily and effectively. Ileana D’cruz’s role doesn’t offer much scope to present her acting ability and just looking dazed with a distant expression was enough. She manages that well.
Pritam drums up a soundtrack that sets the mood and Mohit Chauhan’s ‘Ala Barfi’ and the opening credits track ‘Picture Shuru’ offer a pleasurable listen. Here’s a song that didn’t make it out of the recording studio:
The most mentionable aspect about this film is the deliciously stunning cinematography. Almost every frame is a picture postcard. Even the camera angles could force the makers of ‘Amelie’ to return to the drawing board.
Anurag Basu has surely come a long way from ‘Kites’ and a short way from ‘Life in a… Metro’. He needs to be applauded for stitching together this simple yet soulful story, without magnifying the disabilities of the lead characters.
Barfi! is not a story that will make it into the ‘Chicken Soup for the deaf and mute’ or the ‘Spinach salad for the autistic’. But when you watch the film, you will realize that we should only be glad about that. In short, Barfi says it best when he says nothing at all.