Monthly Archives: September 2012

Review: Barfi

Barfi is a strange sweet.

When you have only five rupees in your pocket and want to eat something, it calls out to you, covered at times with pieces of cashew, sometimes with a silver foil. You start eating it, and it is delicious. But by the time you are half way done, you realise it’s a little too sweet for your taste.

The film ‘Barfi’ is like the sweet it gets its name from.

With some films, you just know it is going to be successful when you see the trailers. Barfi was one of those films. The trailer was exotic – Chaplin inspired scenes, interesting music, and the brightest star on the Hindi film horizon teaming up to promise a treat to the viewers.

Even as the reviews came in, they were on predictable llines. “Barfi is mind-blowing, should go to the Oscars, is a must-watch, a masterpiece.” etc. But why we are hell-bent on declaring everything a masterpiece, I can never fathom. I remember when Bhansali’s ‘Black’ was released a few years ago, it was touted to be a masterpiece, a cult film, a revolution, and that it should go to the Oscars. Now, when I watch the film, I cringe at how terrible a film it is.

Barfi begins charmingly. The story of a lovable, mute boy who wears his heart on his sleeve even if he can’t mouth the words. His love story with Ileana, the pretty, rich girl who visits, and its end have a sad, melancholic Raj Kapoor feel to it. It’s not something you haven’t seen earlier, but Basu gets his team to carry it off believably.

While enough has been said about Ranbir Kapoor, it was the two women who impressed me. Ileana, after watching her in innumerable films where she has to show her navel, act cute, and dance with the hero, is a pleasant surprise. Which just goes to show that if they are offered meaty roles, actresses down South could do a lot more than titillating the audience.

It was Priyanka Chopra’s role I was interested to see. Bollywood has this knack of overdoing the whole unstable act, often making a mockery of it. From extreme hamming (SRK), to stammering (Ajay Devgn), to fully mental (Hrithik Roshan) to the plain annoying (Sridevi). I have seen so many actors do the role in such cringe-worthy fashion that I was sceptical of watching another role.

But Priyanka Chopra manages to toe the fine line between acting and overacting, and just when you think you might cringe, she steps back and lets the story take centrestage, as should rightly be the case.

Another of the film’s backbones is the Background Music. I don’t know if it has been inspired by anyone or not, but till a Korean girl band sues him, I would maintain that Pritam has come into his own with this film.

While he has his team in terrific form, it is director Anurag Basu himself who lets the film down. Resorting to unnecessary plot points, twists, and flashbacks, the film loses out on the magic it is able to whip up in the first half.

And here is another thing I have always felt strongly about. If an average filmmaker lifts a scene from a Hollywood film, the entire country goes mad with rage. I am surprised how Basu has gotten away with it, with people using terms like ‘inspired’, and ‘doffing a hat’.

Apart from a scene lifted straight off The Notebook, I found at least three scenes lifted directly from the wonderful Japanese film ‘Kikujiro’. I don’t like sugar-coating the truth. If you have lifted key scenes from another film, it is definitely not a masterpiece in my books.

But in spite of these shortcomings, you are willing to forgive the filmmaker because it seems like an earnest, honest attempt at telling a story.

In the end, the film is like the sweet it gets its name from.

You might not be able to enjoy all of it, but it is enticing enough for you to dig your teeth into.

I’ll have a Breezer. Fuck You!

A few friends are sitting down to drink and the customary question gets floated around – “What will you have?”

That’s a terrible question, and attending to it takes up at least 15 minutes. I generally have three very simple rules for drinking:

  1. If heavy dancing is on the cards, and there is money in your cards, have Vodka and some juice.
  2. If it is just about sitting down together and having a good time, have Old Monk.
  3. If someone else is suggesting something, or paying, take whatever is on offer.

These three rules make my life simple and easy. Sadly, that is not the case for most of the people I see drinking.

Choosing what one has to drink in the present times in India has become a pain in the ass, thanks to some of the ridiculous notions we have about drinking. And this is where our villain enters –

India is full of these Madira Machos. Guys who exude masculinity through their choice of drink.

And these guys actually ruin a good drinking experience for everyone else.

They are innocuous, seemingly harmless people. But order something that isn’t manly enough, and their inner Machoman shouts up in protest. Some of the errors you might make while ordering your drink are:

1. Ordering Beer

I have never understood how and why beer has come to be understood in India as a lesser drink. It is perfect for sipping in the afternoon, during a hot day, while watching cricket, and for generally chilling out.

But beer knows not that it has been relegated to the side by these strange things called HARD DRINKS – rum, whiskey, skotch.

Beer is a beautiful drink. When chilled, its bitterness magically turns into a sweet, frothy taste that seems to get better with every sip. It doesn’t give you the instant rush of the other drinks, it is like watching a Rahul Dravid innings, it starts slow and works its way into a beautiful, well-crafted innings that is a sheer beauty. But of course, none of the Madira Machos would allow this.

2. Ordering Vodka

If you order vodka at a pub with other guys, be prepared for a lot of stares and sniggers. While you think you are merely ordering a vodka, for the Madira Machos, you might have as well asked for sanitary napkins.

For some strange reason, most people in India consider vodka to be a ladies’ drink. Out of curiosity, I looked up the largest consumers of alcohol in the world. Along with Russia, the top five countries belonged to the erstwhile USSR.

Now, try telling one of them that they have been wasting away their masculinity on a ladies drink and see what he has to say to you. Remember to pick your teeth up from the ground before leaving though.

I used to wonder how this practice of calling vodka a women’s drink came to be, and one of my friends has an interesting explanation. She believes that in India, most women do not like to be seen holding a glass of alcohol. In such cases, vodka is the best because one can pass it off as Lime Soda or simply water.

I don’t know how much of this is true, but my research further led me on to see if vodka might be any lesser of a drink, in purely chemical, C2H6O terms, and this is what I found:

3. Asking for Cool Drink

I don’t know where this idea came from, but I am guessing it came from the steady dose of Indian films that we grew up on.

In all the films, the heroes do not do sissy things like asking the waiter to add two cubes of ice, a little cola, and then some water. No.

Hero opens bottle cap, holds bottle to mouth, guzzles. That’s it.

Many a Madira Macho can be found, smiling at their drinks at bars. When you ask them, “Bhai, Thums Up lega?” they merely smile and say, “Nahi yaar, main sirf neat peeta hoon!”

4. Asking for Indian Made Liqour

If you are at a place with a Madira Macho, you are screwed already. But if you are with a Madira Macho who has been abroad, you better carry a small bottle of Vaseline with you.

Ordering Indian drinks in front of a Vides-returned Madira Macho will be like trying to attack Sabu with a butter knife. You will be inundated with suggestions like Glenfiddich, Jim Beam, Jack Daniels, and Horspiss.

But there is a smart way to deal with this problem. Simply go ahead with your order of Old Monk and say, “Yaar, yeh sab videsi daaru achhe hain, lekin desi daaru jaisi kick nahi hai unmein.” This will keep the videsi Madira Macho silent for a while.

5. Ordering a Breezer

The biggest crime you can commit while drinking with a Madira Macho is to order a Breezer. Breezers, you see, come in colours like orange, yellow, maroon. Colours that our world has, in all its intelligence, straitjacketed as women’s colours.

Ordering a breezer in front of a Madira Macho is hara-kiri for your masculinity.

But you know what, sometimes, I don’t want to get so high that I feel like Kader Khan in a Govinda movie. I like the gentle high, I like making conversation with people when I am buzzing, and I like singing songs.

I hate puking, and screaming, and breaking a bottle to announce my presence. You are welcome to be the Tarzan of the jungle.