An absolutely wonderful experience.Highly recommended – 4.0/5.0
By: Nikhil Arora
The primary reason why we visit the cinema each week is because we want to escape or even take back something intangible or invaluable when we exit. We sit in a dark room with hundreds of unknown people and collectively watch dreams unfold on screen. We crave for those two hours to be a memorable experience. We need a glimmer of hope, or a reason to laugh or cry. Even though mostly we don’t have major epiphanies and start living our lives any differently, the person inside feels he/she isn’t alone when the experience is shared with the characters we see. Barfi goes a little further and gives that person inside a hug. It transports you into a delightful world and gives you a small pot of gold to take back.
A sprightly song announces the start of the film and requests you to switch off your cellphones: “Picture shuru, picture shuru”. It starts conjuring its spell from then on. A sequence, which would make Buster Keaton happy, soon follows. (Keaton, not Chaplin, please.) In fact there are plenty reasons for this film to have ended up as a pretentious and clunky film but it foils this predisposition some minutes in and never stops bombarding you with dollops of charm.
It is characters like the protagonist of this film that I go to watch movies for in the first place. People who are inherently good. The story revolves around Murphy (Ranbir Kapoor) who is called Barfi because that’s how he says his name and it kind of catches on with the inhabitants of Darjeeling. He is deaf and mute, you see, but never lets that come in between his cheerful perception of life and rarely clogs up his demeanor. His relationships with Shruti (Ileana D’Cruz) and Jhilmil (Priyanka Chopra) form the core of the story.
Ileana D’Cruz has a tranquil screen presence and it really helps that she is pretty as well (every role given to Asin, please bring it here). Priyanka Chopra is mostly brilliant but her performance can get borderline hammy which means lots of awards. For me, her best performance still resides in Kaminey (2009). The depiction of Jhilmils autism is a bit hackneyed but manages to sail as Anurag Basu handles it with sensitivity and doesn’t take refuge in melodrama. The camera always looks at her with deep tenderness.
Anurag Basu has made films about lovers and/or criminals in the past. This time he mixes the two and with a smile on his face. His movies were always well shot but Ravi Varman gives plenty reasons to gasp with some enchanting visuals. The 70s have rarely looked this good in Bollywood. Pritam has produced his best work with the beautiful music which forms the backbone of this film. Ala Barfi, Main Kya Karoon, Aashiyan, Phir Le Aaya Dil, Kyon and Saawali Si Raat. How can I pick one song out of these and call it best? This is definitely the album of the year.
However, if I do have to pick what really makes Barfi so special it would be Ranbir Kapoor. He owns the film. He looks incredibly comfortable in his skin and performs effortlessly each second he is on screen. I can’t think of a single false note. If I’m forced to think of one, then he is perhaps a little too charming for this role. He acts solely with his eyes, especially in one heartbreaker of a scene where he gathers he isn’t worthy enough to marry. This extremely talented actor is making all the right decisions. I’ve been a fan of his work since Saawariya (2007) and I don’t think I would like to change my mind. (Yes, all you Ranbir fangirls will have many reasons to have an orgasmswoon)
The love story is the stuff of vintage Bollywood romances. The non-linear structure is a bit out of place in a film like this and could have done without it. It doesn’t succeed entirely but it is remarkable that Basu and his editors get away with it and don’t hamper the experience. The film is a bit long but I don’t mind the length if it gives me enough reasons to keep sitting there.
There is one moment near the end where Shruti has to make a choice which will determine the fates of all three characters and this elongated moment is what made me fall immutably in love with the film. There are a few instances, which turn on your tear-ducts, but there are plenty that fill you with immense joy and make you laugh. I have a smile on my face even while I’m closing this review. This is that smile which surfaces out of contentment. Barfi offers an endlessly rewarding and a magical movie experience.