Saturday, September 15, 2012

Barfi is a poetic masterpiece

Barfi, directed by Anurag Basu, was a definite winner ever since its first trailer came out. You know a movie is destined for awesomeness when the makers have the balls to put out a trailer without any dialogues even when they have the slate of stars such as Ranbir Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra and Ileana D'Souza. Each successive promo or trailer told a little story in itself building up to a release that had everyone's heart pounding to grab a bite of this sweet dish. Anurag Basu started his career with the box-office hit Murder, followed it with the epoch busting thriller Gangster and then delicious slice of life Life in a Metro. He also directed Hrithik Roshan's Kites thereafter but never owned up to it amidst all the rumors of interference from Rakesh Roshan. With Barfi, he breaks these virtual shackles and paints a delectable imagery inspired by the creative reserves that always existed in him and bumps it up by many levels. Yet, Barfi is a film that demands all of your earnest attention and immense patience, but if you do give that, the final pay-off is a cauldron of fulfillment, to say the least.

An odd name, Barfi, is a multi-layered film that cannot be classified into any genre without a blink. At the heart of it, it is a love triangle with soaring emotions, but is doused with elements of zany comedy, unspoken physical challenges and a shy thriller subplot. Yet, Anurag Basu effortlessly takes all of these and more, wraps it around in softness and recites it like a William Wordsworth poem. Barfi has all the ingredients of masala intertwined in its poetic branches, yet filtered and finished with a feel good charm that constantly ensures a smile on your face. Its a hard film to make, and a harder film to write, considering the lavish focus on differently abled lead characters that dont speak ever, a layered circular narrative that could get trifle confusing and an impressively visceral treatment that exemplifies cinematic indulgence in right proportions. Barfi is a playful experiment in the mainstream space that is constantly engaging and subtly entertaining, despite its maniacal anachronistic presentation that shamelessly switches between times and flashbacks and eras. Basu's periodical gearshifting never causes a gap in the tone of the film, such is his masterstroke. Many would complain about the thriller subplot as being extraneous or a lack in pace in the second half, but all the convolutions gel so coherently that wipes the smudge off the screen and sharpens the edges of this bright yet heartbreaking venture. Lots of long shots and close-ups, innovative techniques of direction and an assuring camerawork pins Barfi notches above the expectations you might have.

Barfi is the story of a pack of characters over a few decades, led by a deaf and mute guy Murphy (Ranbir, he can only tell his name as Barfi), an autistic girl Jhilmil (Priyanka) and a married girl Shruti (Ileana) who cannot get over her only love of life. The two best things about Basu's writing and direction is that it never lets go of the whimsical breezy charm amidst its varied sensibilities, and it never tries to manipulate your emotions through tomfoolery, sympathy or contrivations. The content is meaty and unfocused but Basu weaves his endearing moments with a lot of care taking influences ranging from Charlie Chaplin to Woody Allen. His characters are simple people who feel and act instantly, but there is a light-hearted balance that eventually drives home the point of the beauty of life. Barfi manages to connect with you on many levels, striking your senses with a gentle touch as a bout of innocent and fresh escapist entertainment devoid of patronization or pretension. Anurag Basu exhibits a rare narrative style with barely any dialogue, better than any of his previous attempts, that propels his pure talent to the pinnacle of filmmaking this year. *Yes, it is the year of Bengal.*

Barfi, produced by UTV Motion Pictures and Ishana Movies, had more than just the writing going for it. Ravi Varman's cinematography is largely immersive and genuinely breathtaking, drawing you quietly into each and every frame across the panoramic locales of Darjeeling and Calcutta. Varman captures the nuances of the characters with much ease and paints a rapturous picture that never gets loud or touristy, coherently seconded by a diligent Production Design that emanates ease. Pritam, takes upon himself to slam all his critics over the years and delivers one of the best albums of the year. Each song is a little gem that tickles different chords inside you. Phir Le Aaya Dil by Rekha Bharadwaj and Arijit Singh is my pick of the lot, followed by Main Kya Karoon and Barfi title song. Basu uses the song well to make up for the lack of dialogue and doesnt allow them to barge in. A special mention of the opening verse of a song that tells you to shut your phones and kids because the movie is starting. Lyrics by Swanand Kirkire, Neelesh Mishra, Sayeed Quadri and Ashish Pandit are fresh and frivolous. Background score by Pritam only extends his excellence with the songs. Editing by Akiv Ali could be a tad bit tighter.

Time and again, many of us have said and heard that Ranbir Kapoor is bound to be the next superstar. Without any predilection, I would like to eliminate this idea and go on to announce, that he is already a superstar, and more importantly, a super actor. Last year, he reneged his detractors, though there arent many, with a standout performance in Rockstar. In a recent interview, Kapoor audaciously rated himself 10/10 as an actor and 4/10 as a star. In his short career, his choice of films from Rocket Singh to Rockstar to Barfi has been palpably superior to any of his peers and remarkably phenomenal. With Barfi, he exponentially enters an elite zone where not many can outplay him. His goofball boisterousness, his lover-boy antics, his innocent emotions, as Barfi, transcend beyond acting to a semblance of reality that reaches out to you. To complement Ranbir, Priyanka Chopra plays an equally difficult character with much panache that makes me wonder why she gives duds like Teri Meri Kahaani putting her ginormous talent to shame. As an autistic girl, Chopra never lets Jhilmil become a subject of pity or sympathy depicting dumbness, sense, love, jealousy and everything else with a distinct portrayal. If you even dare to miss the eye candy in the leads, Ileana D'Souza dons a saree to deliver a vital mature performance that probably defines the essence of the film. Ileana, confident in her Hindi debut, is seamlessly ebullient and instantly believable. Acclaimed Bengali actress Rupa Ganguly makes a mark in the few scenes she gets as Ileana's mother. Saurabh Shukla is a shockingly under-rated talent that gets his due in Barfi, shining in his role as the police inspector. Akash Khurana as Barfi's dad is superb, while Ashish Vidyarthi doesnt get much scope. Its this eclectic set of artists that handle this intricate tale with much concern and affection.

Barfi is not only a buffet of eyeball orgasms that delivers a rousing stretch of smiles, but is also a heartbreaking tale of pure love, told with a refreshing cinematic approach that affects you deeply and stays with you longer. It is a film that hardly gets many things wrong in its 150 minute runtime and a film that should be witnessed on the biggest screen. It has taken a good start at the Box Office but Ranbir's films dont make the money they are supposed to, once his fans are done seeing the movie. Its a shame that Indian movie-going audience would take Bol Bachchan to 100Cr and Ek Tha Tiger to 200Cr, but would wait for Barfi to come out on a DVD. Here is a star who is trying to act, and make a difference with really mainstream entertaining movies. What else do you want? If Barfi does not enter the coveted 100Cr club, it should call for a riotous situation inside my head. I appeal to you, go out, buy a ticket and watch Barfi in a theater. If you are disappointed, I will buy you a meal whenever we meet!

Rating - 4.5/5

*The Year of Bengal refers to my recent column here


  1. a true master piece by anurag basu and magnificently described by you

  2. I think this is by far, your best movie review till date. You've covered every single detail without getting tedious. Keep it up.

  3. I think this is by far, your best movie review till date. You've covered every single detail without getting tedious. Keep it up.