It would be ironic for me to claim that I’m lost for words when it comes to describing the brilliance of Barfi! as I spend the rest of the review giving you every possible reason to go watch it. 2012 hasn’t been a great year for Indian cinema; it’s been terrible actually, courtesy of films such as Agent Vinod, Teri Meri Kahaani and the more recent, Joker. In fact, it was after the last film that I began losing faith in my favourite form of cinema, one I have spent my entire life watching and loving, despite all its cheesiness, clichés and repetitive stories. This is where I call Barfi! a saving grace. It reassured me that Bollywood is, in fact, entirely capable of producing meaningful and earnest films. It also proves that gimmicks like item numbers and shirtless men aren’t required to make a film entertaining (hint hint, Karan Johar).
The film is a romantic comedy about a deaf and mute boy, Barfi (Ranbir Kapoor), named after Murphy radio by his parents, whose primary goal in life is to make those around him smile and see the positivity in everything life gives them. With very minimal dialogues, Barfi’s character is highly inspired by Charlie Chaplin, finding himself in comical situations which he either creates or can’t escape, in the remote areas of Darjeeling and later on, in Calcutta. He falls in love with Shruti (Ileana D’Cruz), a young, beautiful girl from an upper-class family who is already engaged. However, as Barfi continually tries to woo her, her defenses fall and she begins to find herself attracted to Barfi’s innocent charm. Meanwhile, Barfi befriends Jhilmil (Priyanka Chopra), an autistic girl hailing from a wealthy family.
Following a series of unwanted events over 5 years, Barfi and Jhilmil run away to Calcutta, where Shruti, now unhappily married, has moved. After Barfi and Shruti cross paths once again, their friendship is rekindled, making Jhilmil jealous. However, little does Jhilmil know that Shruti is facing the same predicament on seeing the love that the former shares with Barfi. As unusual as their story seems on the surface, Shruti isn’t sure whether or not she wants to get in the way of the couple’s love story and have Barfi for herself or allow them to have the fate she chose to give up 5 years earlier.
The film is mainly told from a third person narrative, led by Shruti and supported by characters who play a pivotal role in the lives of Barfi and Jhilmil, recalling the incidents as the titular character is on his deathbed.
- Priyanka Chopra. Despite Ranbir Kapoor playing the lead role, it’s easily the ex-Miss World, sans makeup, who steals the show as an autistic girl dependent on those around her with everything she does. This dusky beauty has, time and again, shown her versatility as far as her acting abilities are concerned. From a glamourous fashion editor in Dostana to a myriad murderer in Saat Khoon Maaf and now, to the autistic Jhilmil in Barfi!, PC has proven to be one of the most exceptional actors the decade has seen, giving even the likes of Shah Rukh Khan a run for their money. Undoubtedly, her best performance till date.
- Ranbir Kapoor. He takes his off-screen charm onto the screen as the deaf-mute titular character. His innocent characteristics are nothing but endearing and amusing to watch. To emote with only the use of actions isn’t a piece of cake and director, Anurag Basu has ensured that the use of sign language isn’t one that’s traditional but one that’s universally understandable. He plays the role of Barfi with immense ease and makes you smile throughout the film. After Rockstar last year, one would think there was nothing else needed for this actor to prove his worth. His performance in Barfi! screams otherwise.
- Ileana D’Cruz. Having established a big name for herself in Telugu cinema, she’s more than just a pretty face. With the large number of debutantes this year, Ileana is a superb actress who manages to stand out despite starring with two very big names, and underplaying her role as Barfi’s love interest.
- The music. The soundtrack, all original (it must be said if it’s arranged by Pritam), is light-hearted, warm and fits in perfectly with the mood and tone of the film. As the saying goes, ‘music is the language of love’. The songs are thus, aptly used to present the emotions of Ranbir Kapoor’s character in the film towards his two female leads.
- The cinematography. Gotta give it to Ravi Varman, who has done an exceptional job in his presenting the cities of Darjeeling and Calcutta in all their aesthetic beauty.
- The plot. Despite being a little jumpy at times, it’s engaging and easy to follow with the intricately etched vignettes. The relationships between the three characters are endearing and heart-warming. The audience sympathises with the characters and is encouraged to take sides with Ranbir’s character through and through despite all his hurdles. Basu also uses many humorous moments to maintain the light-hearted tone of the film.
- The makeup. It’s fine when the actors are young, but when they play their respective characters in their old age, the makeup is more humorous than convincing.
If you haven’t already guessed, a 5 on 5. By far, the best film of the year and definitely a film that’ll be extremely difficult to beat for a very long time. Exceptional performances by all three leads and an engaging story by Anurag Basu. The icing on the cake is the lovely, foot-tapping music!
The last word:
I’m neither biased nor exaggerating when I say Priyanka Chopra is remarkable in the film. She plays her enactment of Jhilmil to the core, a role which may be compared to that of Shah Rukh Khan’s in My Name Is Khan. There is however, no question that PC’s performance is, hands down, far better than SRK’s was.