(Published in The New Indian Express, on 15 September 2012, Saturday, retrieved from http://newindianexpress.com/entertainment/reviews/article607163.ece)
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Ileana D’Cruz, Rupa Ganguly, Saurabh Shukla
Director: Anurag Basu
Rating: 4 stars
Every once in a while, along comes a movie that urges us to look beyond its trappings. To lose ourselves in the lives of its characters, and the simple, but powerful, emotions that touch their lives. Barfi! is one such. Navigating between the present day and the 1970s, it tells us two love stories – one that is stifled by pragmatism, another that is spurred by trust.
The opening song, Picture Shuru, which tells us “Mobile bachche dono off rakhna”, pulls us into its happy sweep. But the opening scene bewilders us. Who is this Barfi (Ranbir Kapoor), who seems to live all alone in a home for old people? And why does he matter so much to Shruthi Ghosh (Ileana D’Cruz), a social worker based in Kolkata?
We’re pitched into 1978, where a hilarious chase by the overweight Inspector Dutta (Saurabh Shukla) takes us into a flashback-within-the-
flashback. We meet Jhillmill Chatterjee (Priyanka Chopra), a deaf girl who shies away from communication with most people. An alcoholic mother and a hen-pecked father drive her towards her Nanaji and “Dadu”, the head of a home for special children.
In a story that spans 1972 to the present day, with delightfully subtle scenes that allow us to experience the characters’ little delights and endearing innocence, we’re left wondering what love really is. How do we know when we’re truly in love? Do we construct our lives based on practical concerns? When we’re older, are we thankful we weren’t driven by our emotions into wrecking our lives? Or do we wish we’d jumped on that train, leaned out of that window, or posted that letter that could have changed our fates?
And what really tells somebody that you love him or her? Is it blind trust? Is it an act of cruel selflessness, of letting go when the time of reckoning comes, because that’s what the other person needs you to do? What tells him or her that he or she loves you back? Is it the protective instinct roused in him or her when you’re around? Is it the colourlessness of life without you? Or is it that nothing else matters when you’re not around?
Three powerful characters populate this film, and they all have choices to make. The character we relate to most is perhaps Shruthi, who must make three tough decisions, the final one being the worst.
For a while, the film takes us into a world where there is only silence, and our lives depend on the kindness of others. A world where we cheer ourselves up by telling our sob stories with funny music for accompaniment, where we play tricks on people so they won’t feel sorry for us, where only we know what a silly game can actually reveal about a person.
The music helps the story along, with the title song, lifted from the M L Vasanthakumari Tamil hit “Aiyya Saami”, getting us into just the right mood for the film.
The Verdict: A breezy film that makes us laugh as much as it makes us fret, Barfi! is thoroughly engaging.