Showing posts with label Barfi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Barfi. Show all posts

Sunday, September 16, 2012

An eloquent silence

(Published in The Sunday Guardian, on 16 September 2012, retrieved from

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.

Where words have no place

(Published in The New Indian Express, on 15 September 2012, Saturday, retrieved from

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.

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