Barfi!: The melodious sound of silence

Published: September 20, 2012
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Ranbir and Priyanka’s acting skill combined with Basu’s directorial finesse provides a decent on-screen experience. PHOTO: FILE

Ranbir and Priyanka’s acting skill combined with Basu’s directorial finesse provides a decent on-screen experience. PHOTO: FILE

Ranbir and Priyanka’s acting skill combined with Basu’s directorial finesse provides a decent on-screen experience. PHOTO: FILE Ranbir and Priyanka’s acting skill combined with Basu’s directorial finesse provides a decent on-screen experience. PHOTO: FILE Ranbir and Priyanka’s acting skill combined with Basu’s directorial finesse provides a decent on-screen experience. PHOTO: FILE
KARACHI: 

Starting with Dadasaheb Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra in 1913, Bollywood took shape and is looking to complete its 100 years of film-making in 2013.

From theatrical on-screen recreations of  the Mahabharata, the industry has now seen its fair share of melodrama, romantic comedies, neo-realistic tales and some poorly executed and blatant replications of stories from film industries all across the world. Keeping this in mind, we are expecting Bollywood’s 100th birthday to be marked by run-of-the-mill conventional romantic dramas — but, the surprise party has come earlier than anticipated in the form of Barfi!

Directed by Anurag Basu, Barfi’s central fixture and title character is a boy who cannot hear or speak and has interestingly taken his name from Murphy radio sets. Played by Ranbir Kapoor, Barfi outplays everyone with his utter innocence combined with confidence, despite his biological shortcomings. With Charlie Chaplin inspired moves and Mr Bean-like comedy of errors, Barfi lives life to the fullest. An autistic girl Jhilmil Chatterjee, played by Priyanka Chopra and the charming Shruti, played by Ileana D’Cruz are the only ones he eventually trusts, but how it all unfolds is for you to witness on the big screen.

Barfi! is a smart, simple, compelling, often predictable yet different movie — a rarity in present day Bollywood. As a layman, it is difficult to say whether Ranbir and Priyanka did justice to their character’s impairments but as an audience member, one is truly impressed by their acting skills and antics. As Barfi, Ranbir’s gimmicks can make anyone a believer; credit for this must be given to the actor and Basu for generating all the humour through actions instead of dialogue. It is definitely a stupendous achievement for the industry as a whole, and especially for Ranbir and Basu.

As Jhilmil, Priyanka has surpassed her performance in Saat Khoon Maaf and proves that she is not just a hot babe, but has great resolve as an actor. Stylistically, the film is a visual treat and Basu’s brilliant use of visual metaphors in Barfi! marks his best work in Bollywood to date.

Most scenes in the film include the pitter patter of raindrops, which add to the beauty of Darjeeling, where the film was primarily shot, and also set an interesting canvas for a screenplay with a not-so-apparent but dark undertone.

The occasional appearance of violin and accordion players in the frame reminds one of some early French films, with the technique perfectly gelling in with the narrative. All these minor details of the mise en scène make Barfi! flow like a river, but the only problem is that it takes too long to hit reach the sea.

There comes a point where the humour starts getting stretched and the film tests your patience. The climax of the film doesn’t really give you something worth the wait either.

No matter how cautiously the director has taken care of the nuances of film-making, if it drags on for no good reason then it ends up working against the film-makers as the audience’s patience turns into endurance.

But just like most Steven Spielberg films, whether you end up liking them or not, you’ll walk out of the cinema with the soundtrack resonating in your ears. Pritam hits the jackpot in that respect and provides just the right combination of violin and accordion to make it an easy walk out.

Stories in Bollywood may remain unsurprising (like Karan Johar’s upcoming project Student of the Year) but what directors choose to do with them is slowly becoming as unpredictable as the Pakistani cricket team (yes, we’ve caught the T20 World Cup bug!). Basu’s Barfi! didn’t hit the stumps as such, but was definitely a doosra. The film had its heart in the right place, with valuable lessons for both the audience and film-makers.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 20th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (19)

  • Amit
    Sep 20, 2012 - 12:16PM

    Barfi! is a smart, simple, compelling, often predictable yet different movie — a rarity in present day Bollywood

    I think bollywood today is far more adventurous, evolving and experimental than it has ever been in its 100 year history.

    Recommend

  • Indian Wisdom
    Sep 20, 2012 - 12:25PM

    @ Rafay Mahmood
    Beautifully said!!!
    Must watch… It is an amazing movie..
    A change from regular.

    Recommend

  • ali
    Sep 20, 2012 - 12:29PM

    A must watch………………Recommend

  • malik
    Sep 20, 2012 - 1:17PM

    Aren’t we supposed to appreciate only the movies of Muslim actors ?

    Recommend

  • dr aamir
    Sep 20, 2012 - 1:29PM

    i had the experience of watching the movie on big screen..ranbeer stole the show with his funny gestures and acts..truly he has proven that he is one of his kind and is following the footsteps of his great father and grandfather..congrats to all the members of barfi..u people did a wonderful job

    Recommend

  • Naveed Ikram
    Sep 20, 2012 - 2:09PM

    I fail to understand why every ‘review’ of an Indian movie has to have the mandatory sentence ‘though every Bollywood is a song and dance drama……” When will reviewers realize that Indian Cinema has come a long long way. It is so maturer and so sure of what it is doing.

    Find no word enough to praise ‘Barfi’. This movie a tremendous effort, heart-rending tale. It remains with you long after you leave the theater. Just want to say ‘thank you’ to the artists who are associated with it.

    Few weeks back we saw Cocktail, then ‘Barfi’ and next week we’ll be able to see ‘Heroine’. Thank you again.

    Recommend

  • Manoj
    Sep 20, 2012 - 2:40PM

    @Amit: If you have any Sleeping problems,go and watch this film.I slept well in nice AC Hall.Slow,Boring & Confusing story,Pathetic acting by Ranbir,Overacting by Priyanka.Bollywood is in big mafia hands.As a Indian , I am proud to watch most of the South Indian movies.*

    Recommend

  • Saad Aziz
    Sep 20, 2012 - 2:43PM

    This Film is Magic

    Recommend

  • dude
    Sep 20, 2012 - 4:25PM

    After a long time I am actually reading a review and not a synopsis of the story.Recommend

  • Ijaz
    Sep 20, 2012 - 5:07PM

    I saw this movie two times.. willing to see one more time..

    Ranbir kapoor is rocking..

    Recommend

  • aki
    Sep 20, 2012 - 8:08PM

    Barfi is the film,which the audience wanted,since many years.They are bored with film with only sex support or munni ya chunni-dhinka dhinka-tyoun tyoun etc.BARFI is a film for family and the whole world.

    Recommend

  • karma
    Sep 20, 2012 - 8:15PM

    You missed out the Ileana, who has carried herself with a lot of elan against two seasoned performers. She can easily be the next big thing in Hindi cinema.

    Recommend

  • Gary
    Sep 21, 2012 - 2:04AM

    @malik: Is that really true? A Pakistani friend of mine in NY said the same thing, and i thought he was just being funny and sarcastic.

    Recommend

  • Prakash
    Sep 21, 2012 - 3:41AM

    Barfi is an outstanding movie and a bold experiment.I really feel proud that two Bollywood movie that I saw this year has shown me the maturity of Indian Film Industry in script and its treatment- other movie was “Farari ki Sawari” don’t go by the name

    Recommend

  • Sep 21, 2012 - 5:30AM

    I think Shah Rukh would have done justice to this role better than Ranbir. Also Salman. Also Amir

    Recommend

  • jordan
    Sep 21, 2012 - 12:46PM

    Watch SRKs Jab Tak Hai Jaan awesome trailerRecommend

  • preach-less
    Sep 21, 2012 - 2:11PM

    @Manoj
    nice to know you are a south Indian movie fan,some times language barriers wreak a havoc..btw i think bedroom is better place for a nice sleep.

    Recommend

  • Pankaj
    Sep 21, 2012 - 7:59PM

    nice movie…. few scenes are heart touching

    Recommend

  • afzal
    Sep 24, 2012 - 8:21PM

    wow!!!!!!!!!!! far better than pakistani films………lollywood is super LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Recommend

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