Two Minutes Review - BARFI
October 01 2012
It’s a great achievement for a Hindi film about deaf, mute, and autistic characters to not wallow in sympathy or self-pity, let alone pipe a grandiose ‘triumph of the human spirit’ kinda message down our throats. Barfi, a sweet, saline, emotive, evocative, witty, imaginative, heartfelt cinematic delicacy, steers happily clear of these stereotypes and tells us a story that leaves one deeply moved, though not without a few gripes.
Set in Darjeeling and Kolkata, the story flits about non-linearly from present day to 1976 to 1972 to tell the tale of a mischievous and lively Barfi (Ranbir Kapoor), a deaf-and-mute livewire with always a trick or prank up his sleeve and a local cop (Saurabh Shukla) down his tail. He falls for Shruti (Ileana D’Cruz) already engaged to a handsome hunk in a Kolkatan college and three months away from her wedding. Barfi’s vivacity rubs off on her, but it’s a love story doomed to end in a separation. A family tragedy brings another girl into the picture. Jhilmil (Priyanka Chopra) is an autistic girl from a rich family with an uncaring father and apathetic mom.
Director Anurag Basu weaves a rather gratuitous kidnapping plot into the story and Barfi is foisted with caring for Jhilmil whom he likes and slowly begins to love without realizing it until she’s taken away from him. Will this love story of Barfi also end in separation?
It’s a sweet, charming, but complex tale told simply and smartly. It’s a story laced with humour and heartache in equal measure, but never does it get glum. Never do Barfi’s silences not speak, never does his self-sacrificing love not bring a tear to your eye, never do his antics fail to bring a smile. A viewer laughs through the tears, and cries between the giggles. Such is the overpowering effect of this marvelous film by Anurag Basu. It’s well-nigh a cinematic masterpiece from a director who knows his craft well. A masterpiece but for the little botch up Basu conjures in the form of a rather garbled sub-plot regarding a kidnapping intrigue in Jhilmil’s family. That’s my only gripe. But it’s a minor one.
Rising to the challenge are the three lead players, Ranbir Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra and Ileana D’Cruz. With Barfi! Ranbir elevates himself to the status of a seasoned actor slipping effortlessly into the skin of the character and giving a performance that simply leaves one stunned. Kudos to him and Priyanka Chopra -- an actress with experimental streak and talent that seldom gets the praise it deserves -- who is unbelievably convincing as the autistic Jhilmil, with her convulsive, erratic body language and a highly expressive face. Kudos also for Ileana D’Cruz for a winsome portrayal of a girl who can’t follow her heart, and when she learns to, it’s too late. Ileana’s is the most impressive Bollywood debut this year, and it would be a shame if she’s ignored at the awards.
Last but not the least, kudos to Anurag Basu for a film that’s honest, wonderful, well-written, superbly directed and with a music (Pritam) one won’t forget in a hurry. It’s a story coming straight from the heart and goes straight to the heart. A connect most potent in any form of storytelling.
Posted by PRABHU N