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.