This is one film no one should miss – 4.5/5.0
Barfi, from the very beginning, has every mark of a film well made. A rare combination of art and entertainment sans skin show item songs and cheap laughter, Anurag Basus Barfi takes Hindi cinema miles ahead from where it stands.
Barfi is a deaf and mute guy who believes in making the most of whatever life has given him. Two ladies in his life, the Shurty and the autistic Jhilmil complete his world. The film follows the story of how Barfi finds true love and companionship in Jhilmil, while Shruty finds contentment and purpose through her love for Barfi.
Mounted entirely on a Chaplinisque fantastical canvas, much of Barfis actions happen through signs and sheer physicality. With protagonists that are mute, deaf and autistic, dialogues are minimal and director Basu revives expressions and movements on screen.
Ranbir Kapoor ad Barfi is the heart and soul of the movie. He is silly, vulnerable, likable and well-meaning rascal all rolled into one. Unapologetic about his handicap, his character is one of those rare ones in Hindi cinema which do not manipulate your emotions with over the top melodrama. His outburst at Ileana rejecting his proposal is one scene where the actor shows his class, clearly placing him miles ahead of the current crop of actors.
Matching him scene to scene is Priyanka Chopra as Jhilmil, the autistic girl who finds love in Barfi. It is nothing less than a shock to see a mainstream glamorous actress get into a role like this with such sincerity. If Saat Khhon Maaf left one wanting a lot more from the actress, as Jhilmil, raises herself in stature and respect putting her in the list of the greats of Hindi cinema. Priyanka is awkward, slow in responses, possessive and innocent without being silly and making her handicap into a stereotype. Watching her is a simple delight, something one last experienced watching Rani in Black a while ago. The scene where she dreams of her wedding with Barfi is lyrical, visual poetry and asserts the growth in the actresss craft. Both she and Ranbir complement each other in their scenes together,
Ileana makes a confident debut putting in a spirited performance. It is to her credit that she chose a non-conventional path to a Hindi debut unlike her other southern contemporaries and she comes out with flying colors. Her biggest achievement is the fact that one remembers and registers her character despite two power packed performances by Ranbir and Priyanka.
Thankfully, Barfi is not just about acting. Director Basu provides us with one of the most flawless portrayals of handicaps. He makes the film work without a voice over or a sign language (a device Black used to beautiful effect). His story telling radiates the warmth and glow of a life well lived. Going away from the norm of commercial cinema, life in Barfi is not all hunky dory- the sad parts are not miraculously glossed over- and a message of hope is put across even in the bleakest of moments. Reminiscent of greats of the silent era like Buster Keaton, Basu infuses his narrative with surreal images- be it the three musicians transitioning the to and fro in time, or the boisterous rural drama scene- Basu seamlessly blends the magical with the real.
Barfi leave you moist eyed yet smiling at the same time. It fresh, it is warm, it is sunshine painted on the silver screen. Miss this to your own regret, for rare is a commercial Hindi cinema that is this pure and innocent these days.