(Published in The Sunday Guardian, on 16 September 2012, retrieved from http://www.sunday-guardian.com/masala-art/an-eloquent-silence)
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Ileana D’Cruz
Director: Anurag Basu
Rating: 4 stars
True, the story takes some liberties with logic. True, we’re not sure whether Priyanka Chopra’s character is deaf, autistic or both. True, Pritam’s ubiquitous band is annoying. And yet, when Barfi! ends, I can only think of Rumi’s saying, “Silence is the language of God. All else is poor translation.”
So infectious are the delightful innocence and easy optimism of the characters that we can’t fault any of their decisions. We’re so deeply involved in their lives that when one of them must choose between the realisation of her love, and the happiness of the man she loves, we want her to be selfish, to fight for the bond she gave up all other ties for.
The film bounces us between the present day, 1972 and 1978, taking us through the interwoven lives of three people – Shruti (Ileana D’Cruz), Barfi (Ranbir Kapoor) and Jhillmill (Priyanka Chopra). A criminal plot ushers in the suspense, complicating the narrative and pushing it beyond the traditional love triangle.
Even when the film takes depressing turns, the characters never demand our pity. Instead, they give us cause to laugh. We meet Barfi as the deaf-mute village prankster and the bane of Inspector Dutta’s (Saurabh Shukla’s) existence. Dutta angrily blames him for shrinking his 52” waist to 42”. We learn how Barfi got his name through a quirky song, the lyrics of which include the line, “Radio on hua, Amma off hui”.
His relationships with Shruti and Jhillmill make us wonder about the things love can make us do – and the things it can’t. When you meet The One, would you trust him or her enough not to run away when you think a pole is about to fall on you? Would you trust fate enough to run away from a life that promises comfort and contentment?
The film’s magic is in its treatment of its tender moments – a reversed ‘B’ that’s faithfully copied, an indulgent feint of surprise, a lonely girl’s longing to fit in at a party her parents throw, an ingeniously stolen cigarette, a beautifully-taken shot of a portrait being painted, a signboard whose irony hits home.
Though Pritam leaves his mark with a brazen copy of the 1951 Tamil hit Aiyya Saami for the opening bars of Aashiyaan, the music nudges us into a world whose allure is its silence, a world where we’re enchanted by masked dancers and fireflies glowing inside soap bubbles.
The Verdict: A charming storyline and superlative performances make the few contrived elements in this film forgivable.