Here’s a game to start with. If i say “nostalgia” and ask you to give 10 words that comes to mind, there are very high chances that if you have grown up in 70s or 80s, or even early 90s, you will find all those ten elements in Barfi! What else is a “radio”? Just another symbol for that old world charm. No wonder it has inspired the name for the lead character as well the title of the film. Quaint is the keyword in this postcard written by Anurag Basu and posted from a small hill town post box.
It’s kind of love triangle between Barfi (Ranbir Kapoor), Shruti (Illeana DÇruz) and Jhilmil (Priyanka Chopra). He can’t speak. She doesn’t speak. And the third one who is unlike the other two – can speak, hear and think, she doesn’t have the guts. So there are hardly any dialogues between the three and this is where Basu shines as a director. He creates simple and gorgeous moments between the lead characters and his camera captures it by dipping every frame in nostalgia. If i am not wrong, he might have started the film that way too. The film opens with a text plate where Basu dedicates the film to his father. Ileana’s look and get up is based on his Mother (see the making of the film where he talks about it). And everything else somehow reminds you that Basu is trying to go back to his roots. As the film opens, it tries to soak you in the same mood – old man, phone call, flashback, voice over, train journey (by the window seat), curvy roads, hill station, tunnel, rain, green fields, paper toys. Aha, you know the drift. And it continues that way with soap bubbles, fireflies and more. Ten down?
Basu’s film is set in a world of disarming charm where naivety wins over everything, where love is all you need. And it’s so hard to believe it all in today’s cynical and materialistic world. Would you? I don’t know. Just the other day i was still trying to figure out the madness for the new IPhone. Well, art and design is fine but it doesn’t come cheap. And it reminded me of an incident during the Doha Tribeca Film Fest. They had a segment for short films for Under-13. The film which won the first prize left me pondering. It was about a kid who gets a new expensive mobile phone and then he starts behaving like a phone. He needs to be charged, needs the signals and his body behaves like the keypad which can be operated. All treated in a comic tone but i was left wondering if the kid’s world really revolved around a mobile phone. This is the only story he could think of? Life as a mobile phone? May be the black humour of the kid’s real life was better than the film. May be i am just old fashioned? May be we were different as kids. May be every generation says the same. But one thing is for sure – we were never told to chase money and materials. May be that’s why it all feels weird now. And may be that’s why Basu’s characters had to be “challenged” in this era to not chase the “money and materials”. And the one who chases it, she….well, that would be a spoiler.
I never bothered to watch Basu’s last film Kites which was a big flop and it never looked like his film to start with. Even when he plagiarised entire plot in his previous films, they were always visually strong. Parts of Barfi is inspired too but Basu is in top form with this one. Almost everything is pitch perfect in direction except two issues – the thriller element in the film looked so weird and forced. It just doesn’t gel. And what’s with the crisscross flashback narrative? Sometimes even flashback in a flashback. It became confusing at so many points and i was wondering if Barfi! is the Inception of flashbacks. Wouldn’t a simpler narrative be better? Aha, blame it again on nostalgia – flashback! And characters talking to the camera with their names coming on screen. Why? No clue.
But extra points to the film for not trying hard to work on your tear glands to get the sympathy vote. Please note, Mister Bhansali.
As the trailers of the film came out, we all thought that Priyanka is going to kill the film. If she is controlled, she can do magic. Remember Kaminey? But mostly she goes over the top and is melodramatic. She proved everyone wrong and how! It takes some time to adjust to the fact that it’s Priyanka Chopra playing Jhilmil but once you do that, it’s hard to believe the way she portrays the character. Not a single false note. And Ranbir Kapoor, what’s next? He is born to act. I don’t have too many adjectives to define his natural talent to get into the skin of every character that he portrays. Supporting characters are well cast and some of them ooze so much warmth even though they don’t have a single dialogue.
Go with little patience and watch it. Barfi! falters on some uneven tracks too but it’s a rare film which will melt your cynicism. At least for two hours.
Or, may be, it’s just good old nostalgia. Those flip-flop green window panels of old Calcutta always does it for me.
Or, may be, Barfi! is the answer to that Johnny Cash song “Where did we go right?”. If you haven’t heard the song, click the play button and enjoy.
And if you want the lyrics of the song to sing along, click here.
– Post by @CilemaSnob