BARFI! | 15 September, 2012

UTV Motion Pictures’ Barfi! is the story of a deaf and mute young man and of the two women in his life. Barfi (Ranbir Kapoor) is a young man living in Darjeeling. He can neither speak nor hear but he is so full of life and fun that one can’t help but admire his zest for life. Shruti (Ileana D’cruz) takes a fondness for his antics. Slowly but surely, she begins to like Barfi and before she knows it, she has fallen in love with him. Barfi, too, loves Shruti. But there’s a problem. Shruti is already engaged to be married to Ranjeet Sengupta (Jishu Sengupta) and, therefore, is not sure if she should listen to her heart and break free from the engagement. Her mother (Rupa Ganguly) does not approve of her friendship with Barfi at all. A time comes when Barfi realises that Shruti can never be his and he walks out of her life.

The other girl who enters Barfi’s life is Jhilmil Chatterjee (Priyanka Chopra). She is an autistic girl and can’t communicate like normal human beings. Barfi and Jhilmil have been childhood friends but she re-enters Barfi’s life under strange circumstances. Barfi has plotted to kidnap Jhilmil so that he can extort Rs. 7,000 from her father (Ashish Vidyarthi) for his father’s (Akash Khurana) emergency operation. However, somebody else kidnaps Jhilmil and, by a strange coincidence, Barfi saves Jhilmil from the kidnapper. Barfi and Jhilmil, now living together, get very fond of one another and start enjoying each other’s company in spite of the fact that Barfi can’t speak or hear anything and Jhilmil can barely comprehend things.

Life takes a strange turn when Barfi and Jhilmil reach Calcutta where Shruti lives in her matrimonial home with husband Ranjeet. Shruti starts spending time with Barfi and Jhilmil till one day, Jhilmil disappears. Then comes the news that Jhilmil has been killed. Barfi is arrested for the murder.

Does Shruti help secure Barfi’s release? Or does she let Barfi rot in prison? What is the stance taken by her husband? Who has killed Jhilmil and why? Is it Barfi? Or is Barfi innocent? If he is innocent, is he, with his disability, able to prove his innocence? Or is Jhilmil not dead in the first place? What does life have in store for Barfi and for Shruti?

Anurag Basu’s story is very different from the love stories one has seen so far. One reason for the uniqueness is the characters of Barfi and Jhilmil, which are so different from what one has seen in love stories. His screenplay has heart-warming scenes and of the kind which make the audience smile often and laugh sometimes. The antics of Barfi are very cute and endearing. The love story of Barfi and Shruti is interesting and their breakup, quite heart-wrenching. The relationship between Barfi and Jhilmil is simply fantastic and strikes a chord in the viewers’ hearts. Having said this, it must be added that the screenplay is more class-appealing rather than mass-oriented. The disabilities of two main characters in the drama, as it is, restrict the film’s appeal to the classes. On top of that, the non-linear narrative style will, at places, confuse the viewers, especially the illiterate masses of the single-screen cinemas and a section of the audience in the ‘B’ and ‘C’ class centres. The leisurely pace of the drama will add to the boredom of the aforementioned audience.

Had the drama been more compact and linear, the film would’ve been far more universal in its appeal. The post-interval portion, especially, is long-winding and, therefore, boring. Again, the constant back-and-forth movement of the drama (oscillation between flashbacks and present times at irregular intervals) serves to sometimes confuse the viewers, especially the illiterate mass audience.

On the other hand, there are plenty of heart-warming scenes and moments, which will be simply loved by the audience. For instance, the manner in which Jhilmil locks her little finger in the little finger of Barfi for a sense of security, the way Barfi communicates his arrival to Jhilmil (by throwing his shoe in the air because he can’t speak), the manner in which he attracts Jhilmil’s attention by blowing the whistle, etc. are absolutely superb. Sanjeev Dutta’s dialogues are fantastic.

Ranbir Kapoor lives the role of Barfi and endears himself to the audience right from the word ‘go’. He is extremely cute and effortlessly wins over the hearts of the viewers with a seasoned and mind-boggling performance that will remain etched in people’s memory for a long time. This performance could fetch him a number of awards! Priyanka Chopra is also first-rate. She plays the autistic Jhilmil to such perfection that it is difficult to find a fault in her performance. Her gait, her style of talking, walking and standing, her acting, her persona, all suggest that she is indeed a patient of autism. Her get-up deserves special mention. This is definitely one of Priyanka’s best performances to-date and could easily make her a worthy candidate for all the best acting awards in the country! Ileana D’cruz makes a fabulous debut on the Hindi screen. Looking every inch the Bengali character she plays, she lends so much dignity and understanding to it that it is impossible to consider her as a newcomer. If her debut is excellent, she herself is a welcome addition to the list of talented and saleable heroines. Saurabh Shukla lends brilliant support as police officer Sudhanshu Dutta. Ashish Vidyarthi is suitably restrained. Rupa Ganguly has a couple of scenes to show her mettle and she shines in them. Akash Khurana leaves a mark in a brief role. Haradhan Bandhopadhyay shines as Daju. Jishu Sengupta, in the role of Ranjeet Sengupta, hardly gets any scope. He is alright. Bholaraj Sapkota is nice as Barfi’s friend, Bhola. Arun Bali (as Jhilmil’s grandfather), Uday Tikekar (as Shruti’s father), Preeti Mamgain (as Jhilmil’s mother) and Sumona Chakravarti (as Shruti’s friend) lend adequate support. Rajeev Mishra (as police officer Sudhanshu Dutta’s assistant), Kenneth Desai (as the senior police inspector), master Rahul Malhotra (as young Barfi), baby Bhagyashree Dembla (as young Jhilmil), Archana Dani (as maid) and the rest are appropriate.

Director Anurag Basu treats the subject with the sensitivity it requires and takes care to make the drama as less depressing and as full of fun as possible. He has handled the subject with such love and care that his passion for cinema in general and this script in particular comes across loud and clear. He has worked hard on each and every scene to make it look like a painting on celluloid. He also deserves kudos for extracting such wonderful work from out of his actors. Anurag will be a strong contender for awards this year. Pritam Chakraborty’s music is melodious and appealing. Although there are no super-hit songs, the numbers are of the popular genre. Lyrics (Swanand Kirkire, Ashish Pandit, Neelesh Misra and Saeed Quadri) go well with the mood of the film. Pritam Chakraborty’s maiden attempt at background score is lovely because it complements the drama beautifully. Ravi Varman’s cinematography is extraordinary. The camera captures everything – from the emotions of the characters to the beauty of the locations – so wonderfully that the film becomes a veritable visual delight. The cinematographer could also pick up awards for his craft. Akiv Ali’s editing is sharp. Other technical aspects are of a high standard.

On the whole, Barfi! is a heart-warming love story which is different. It will be loved by the class audience and the city-based public, especially by those who frequent multiplexes. As for the masses of the single-screen cinemas and the audience in ‘B’ and ‘C’ class centres, they would not find the film as satisfying. However, given the investment in the film and the expected returns from the big cities and good multiplexes, it will fetch handsome returns which, when combined with revenues from other sources (satellite, music etc.), will add up to make the film a very profitable venture.

Released on 14-9-’12 at Regal (daily 3 shows), Eros (daily 2 shows), Maratha Mandir (daily 1 show) and other cinemas of Bombay by UTV Motion Pictures. Publicity: excellent. Opening: very good. …….Also released all over. Opening was very good in multiplexes and fair elsewhere.