A leisurely paced, sweet offering with a bit of the Kahaani ambience (Kolkata, Darjeeling), subtly entertaining Chaplinesque moments and three heart-warming performances from a director who knows his job.
The plot: In a non-linear narration as the screenplay goes back and forth to build into an emotional catharsis, watch the love story of deaf-mute Murphy aka Barfi (Ranbir Kapoor) and autistic Jhilmil (Priyanka Chopra) through the eyes of Shruti (Ileana D’Cruz).
Barfi, more animated than those who have all their faculties, is both happily mischievous and a light-hearted roadside Romeo. Shruti, engaged to suave young man Ranjit (Jisu Sengupta) much approved by her parents, ventures into picturesque Darjeeling and soon develops a soft corner for childlike Barfi. But Shruti swiftly moves out of the relationship when Ranjit arrives.
As Barfi gathers the broken pieces of his heart, there are more hardships in store. Criss-crossing his life are his father (Akash Khurana), a cop (Saurabh Shukla), father’s boss (Ashish Vidyarthi) and the boss’ neglected, challenged daughter Jhilmil. She is an irritant Barfi is fond of but he’d ideally like to get her off his back. It takes time and circumstances for them to overcome their respective handicaps and bond beautifully, lyrically, forever. There’s also Shruti who has decided to follow her heart and re-enter Barfi’s life. Meanwhile, Jhilmil has gone missing. Is she even alive anymore?
The good: After the miscarriage of Kites, Anurag Basu takes efficient control of the reins as he deftly tells the bitter-sweet tale of a complex emotion called love with utmost simplicity. He also gives himself the bigger challenge of setting his characters against the backdrop of major handicaps with minimum dialogue. There is a ton of warm humour almost all through. Even in scenes that depict pain and could have gone dramatic, Basu creates magic with light entertainment. What could have turned into a drag due to its inherently non-entertaining theme is noiselessly buoyant with some genuine moments where Barfi’s entertaining camaraderie with both the girls keeps the audience smiling while they empathise with his situation most of the time. Anurag Basu excels in the direction, story and lively screenplay. He does some brilliant detailing like the time lapse in the narration which is depicted through the change of hoardings on the streets.
What shifts the paradigm and elevates the film from good to very good is the worthy repertoire of performances. It’s spot-on casting with the effortlessness of the main threesome and some strong fringes like Roopa Ganguly (as Shruti’s mother) and Jisu Sengupta. After Rockstar, Ranbir ups his credentials yet again as he slips into the super-challenging role of deaf-mute Barfi who has a myriad transformations and moods to portray. His Charlie Chaplin-like demeanour right down to, sorry, right up to a hat, makes a quick connection with the viewer. Ileana from Telegu cinema is refreshingly attractive with a dainty frame. Priyanka gives one of her most uninhibited performances, saying goodbye to looks and glamour, and becoming Jhilmil without reservation. Music by Pritam is successful though not chartbuster stuff with some soothing tunes like ‘Main kya karoon’ playing in the background.
The bad: Since the film fortunately doesn’t try to please one and all and retains its core sincerity, it takes its own sweet time to build the feel of the characters. This is no fast, crisp love story. It can even get slow and boring at times but it is completely unapologetic about it. And there’s Ranbir to keep the frame alive at all times. The story also gets absurd in places, especially the whole kidnapping incident of Jhilmil which looks a tad forced and not in sync with the lyrical quality of the rest of the film.
Certain scenes also take up too much screen time like right after Barfi kidnaps Jhilmil and gets her to the forest which drags the pace.
Overall: Engaging and endearing, it touches all the chords of emotions leaving behind a lingering smile.
– Pooja Thakkar