Far from a mere title, Barfi is a metaphor for life. It asks one to throw cautions to the winds and indulge in the sweetness that life has to offer. It can be a simple bicycle ride, a seed-spitting marshmallow treat, a ‘second-hand’ painting session, a pani-puri indulgence, or trapping fireflies in a bubble (Can we perceive it as an effulgent soul trapped in a bubble of mortal body? Or maybe I am reading too much between the lines, or rather frames? Blame it on the screenplay that tugs your heartstrings and inspires philosophical symphonies).
To begin with, Barfi, written and directed by Anurag Basu is replete with many such honey-strewn scenes that translate into lump-in-throat moments, and simultaneously elicit smiles without trying too hard. A tough feat indeed, for any screenplay writer worth his/her salt.
The film greets us with a ‘Picture shuru’ track, which I hope is allowed to be used for every film. This would make those ‘Statutory warnings’, ‘Switch off your mobile phones’ and ‘Acknowledgments’ slides something worth looking forward to. The song not only sounds catchy, but also works at functional level, where many cell phone addicts promptly pressed the ‘mute’ icon, to make way for yet another ‘mute icon’ – Ranbir Kapoor.
The actor is a textbook of performing art – someone who can pull off a Charlie Chaplin slapstick sequence with as much ease as a heavy-duty emotional outburst without uttering a single word and overacting. Ranbir Kapoor is chameleon of an artist, who becomes the character he portrays. Ten minutes in the film, and you forget he’s Ranbir Kapoor and start believing that he’s Murphy, oops Bafi, as the lead character would like to put it.
Far from the chicken soup for disabled souls or a lesson on sign language for deaf and dumb. Chuck the euphemisms of ‘differently-abled’ or ‘special’, ‘hearing/speech impaired’ ‘specially abled’ etc., for Barfi! makes no bones about the character’s disabilities, nor does its lead character solicit your sympathy. In fact, after few minutes, Murphy i.e. Barfi doesn’t make you wish he’d be as normal (or abnormal) as us.
Barfi falls for a girl, gets rejected, seeks solace in his childhood friend, gets entangled in a kidnap case, and the destinies of these three lead characters crisscross each other, making way for a non-linear narrative that keeps you hooked right from opening sequence till the end credits.
Priyanka Chopra deserves kudos for her flawless performance as an autistic girl called Jhilmil. It takes real guts to strip oneself off the star status and the obvious trappings of essaying an autistic character, and Priyanka Chopra excels at it and sets new benchmarks of acting. For those comparing her to Shri Devi should first understand the difference between autistic person and a mentally challenged person (pardon the euphemism). Well if you wish to still compare, go ahead and compare her with Shah Rukh Khan in My Name is Khan, and still she’d win hands down.
Ileana D’Cruz portrays the role of Shruti Ghosh, the narrator of the film to perfection, and lets her eyes do the talking. Her character subtly makes you feel guilty of being bestowed with five senses, thanks to the ‘layered writing’ and nuanced performance.
Ravi Chandran paints the canvas of silver screen with vivid hues of emotions through his immaculate cinematography. Anthony Gonsalvez and Akiv Ali edit the film in a seamless style. Be it the opening song, the Chalu Chaplin sequences or the tight close-up sequences, each scene exudes charm and commands respect.
The music is the soul of Barfi! It would have been impossible to maneuver through the layers of lead characters without those lilting melodies handholding us at every step. Preetam must take a bow to come up with a career-best soundtrack, right from the ‘making of the film’ song ‘Fatafati’, the opening credits song, ‘Picture shuru’, to the buoyant ‘Aala Barfi’, catchy ‘Mein kya karu’ and ‘Kyun’, soothing ‘Saawli si raat ho’ and sonorous ‘Aashiyaan’.
The song, ‘Phir le aaya dil’ is indeed a pearl in the oyster of the film’s narration. This soulful rendition by Arjit Singh and Rekha Bhardwaj is easily one of the best ghazals we’ve ever heard in films. The songs weave words with an effortless ease and enchant us with their phonetics and vocabulary. After all it’s not everyday that you google a word’s meaning after watching a film.
The words like ‘mayassar’ and ‘musalsal’ in the nuggets of a line, ‘Dil keh raha hai, use mayassar kar bhi aao, woh jo dabi si aas baaki hain’ will compel you to do so. The song evokes one to make the desires complete, and further prods yearnings to be made available and paths to be made unending – Hats off to the ensemble of lyricists Swanand Kirkire, Neelesh Mishra, Ashish Pandit, and Sayeed Quadri.
Despite the fact that Barfi! is an extremely well-made film, it somehow falls short of being proclaimed as a masterpiece cinema. Perhaps it’s because one’s mind is at work to assess a film which requires to be watched from the heart – just like its characters Barfi and Jhilmil love each other.
So the diabetic critics and ‘This looks like Amelie’ or ‘We’ve seen such films at film festivals’ expert opinion-makers beware, Barif! isn’t for you. A film like Barfi! isn’t meant to be watched, but experienced. Not to be rated, but celebrated. Not reviewed, but revered. Damn the stars.