Director: Anurag Basu
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Ileana D’Cruz
A movie like Barfi! comes along rarely. It's a film that engages you at a personal level, playfully nudging you to experience various emotions without really resorting to overt manipulation, one that makes you laugh and cry at the same time, and reminds you of what Roberto Benigni told us sometime ago: Life is beautiful.
At heart, Anurag Basu's laboriously put together film is a conventional love triangle: Boy meets girl, they fall in love, they separate due to societal pressures, boy meets another girl, they fall in love too, first girl returns only to realise it's too late.
Basu uses a plot as ordinary as that to tell a story of two differently abled individuals - one deaf and mute (Ranbir), another suffering from autism (Priyanka) - and does so with the help of little, marvellous moments that leave you touched.
Barfi!, rather than just being an exercise in storytelling, is more of an experiential ride that you won't forget in a hurry.
Barring about twenty minutes of runtime where Basu crams in scenes that seem out of place and unnecessary (kidnapping plots, a supporting character's back story, police investigations, etc), Barfi! has almost everything going for it - a story that pulls all the right strings, breathtaking cinematography, music that blends in beautifully and actors who give their all.
Cinematographer Ravi Varma embellishes the film with scenes shot like beautiful vignettes, the camera lingering on characters a little longer than usual in some scenes, capturing every little emotion. Pritam comes up with a score of a lifetime, the background score moving along hand-in-hand with the narrative. These two elements contribute to Barfi! in ways that make an ordinary film look good, and a good film look better.
What makes Barfi! an even better film is the performance of the lead actors. Rarely do you see actors in the commercial space give their heart and soul to a film like Ranbir Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra have in Barfi!. Ranbir is hardly 10-films old, but so assured he is of his own abilities, and comes across as such a studious practitioner of the craft, that it's hard to not put him in the bracket reserved for only some veteran actors.
Last year, Kapoor awed you with Rockstar, and a year later he's gone one-up on that. It's hard not to expect bigger things from the young star, and his real dilemma now will be to choose roles that give him an opportunity to better his last two performances.
Priyanka comes across as someone trying too hard with her impression of a girl suffering from autism at first, but by the end of the film you can't imagine another actor play Jhilmil.In many scenes with Ranbir, it's hard to take away your eyes off her even though the latter has the more flamboyant role.
Ileana D’Cruz is brave enough to get into a white wig and look aged in her very first shot in a Hindi film. The debutant is as beautiful as she is expressive and provides a great foil to the other two actors. Supporting actors like Saurabh Shukla and Akash Khurana need special mention; they bring their characters alive with seasoned expertise.
Basu plays puppet master efficiently, using every tool he has at his disposal to craft his most honest film to date. With Murder and Gangster, Basu got a foothold in the industry, before Life In A Metro showed glimpses of a mature, sensitive filmmaker. With Barfi!, Basu seems to have finally found his space as a storyteller. His real talent comes through in his ability to narrate a story with sparse dialogue. Ranbir's character hogs a large part of the film, and most of his scenes make use of only actions to communicate. Starting out with a Chaplinesque chase in the marketplace, then showing the antics of Barfi - proud, arrogant and charming in spite of his disabilities - as he woos the new-in-town Ileana, to the latter part of the film that establishes the romance between Barfi and Jhilmil, the film does away with reliance on the spoken word.
Yet, Barfi! speaks louder than most other films, making a connect that is tough to shirk off. As filmmaker, it's a huge triumph for Basu.
Barfi! cannot be missed. It demands patience, but the payoff is incredible. Not a film that you watch, enjoy and forget about soon after, Barfi! is like a lilting tune that sticks, one that you will find yourself drifting towards even days after. Discovering a film like that is pure joy.