Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Barfi! - Love needs no words

There is something to be said about the evolving art of filmmaking. The language of simple, heartfelt charm has somehow lost its way to style and technique. The hued world of characters and their ordinariness has somehow being lost to computer graphics and awe inspiring visual effects. I did not realise how much I missed that simplicity and innocence till I stumbled upon the fabled world of Anurag Basu's Barfi! Named after the famed baby of the Murphy radios which adorned every household as an entertainment source in a simpler long lost era, this deaf-mute mischievous charmer whose lips garbles out his identity as 'Barfi'(Ranbir Kapoor), lives life prince sized, disabilities be damned. The idyllic, dew covered misty hills of Darjeeling in the 1970's form the backdrop to the story of a boy who lived, laughed and loved, no holds barred. Into his world sweeps a princess, Shruti (Ileana D'cruz), who already wears the engagement ring of another.

Love should know no language but that of the heart. Shruti gives in to the charming serenades of barfi and finds herself falling in love. The shades of innocent first love, that magical kiss they exchange all unfortunately lead to that dreaded conversation with the head and logic at decision time. So just like her mother (an effective Rupa Ganguly), Shruti leaves love behind for security and comfort. Only she exchanges love for a lifetime of regret. For Barfi, broken hearted and a little more savvy of his limitations, physical and otherwise, through several twists and turns finds himself responsible for the autistic daughter of the richest family in Darjeeling, Jhilmil (Priyanka Chopra). And love strikes twice and this time forever.

As a story, where barfi scores and so many others fail, is its simple rendition of genuine emotions. There is no obvious manipulating the audience here, the director's sleight of hand, if at all, is masterful.
Anurag Basu, in his personal life, has dealt with near death in the form of cancer. The beauty of a life well lived and its true intricacies must not be lost on him. Barfi embodies that spirit of celebrating life, no matter the circumstance. His previous outings 'Gangster' and 'Life in a Metro', both quality cinema, showed the dark side of human nature and life. Here Barfi celebrates life and teaches us to laugh at it. With laughter, troubles can melt like lemon drops.

A movie of this calibre needs able support in every department. The performances are superlative. Ranbir Kapoor, that rare combination of charisma and talent, disappears into Barfi's soul. What follows is the most delightful performance I have seen all year. A true performer needs no words and Ranbir Kapoor proves this with a bravura act which takes the best of Charlie Chaplin and Raj Kapoor and creates his own unique character. There is goodness shining on his face, a smile inspite of the odds, and yet there a little hint of sadness peeking out of knowing life's harsh truths. A standout scene is Barfi's piteous outburst upon realizing Shruti has picked another man over him. The apology and smile that follow are even more heartbreaking in their honesty.  Priyanka Chopra's Jhilmil is a fitting partner with a studied performance in autism. The mannerisms are correct, the technicalities down pat with Priyanka giving the character strokes of its own. Needless to say she stands tall in an industry which has made mockery of this disability with stretched out, false, theatrical performances. I do not need to take names here. When love shines upon this child woman, she stands in front of her man, creating boundaries, marking him as her own. Heartwarming!

Ileana D'Cruz, in her debut Bollywood role, as the chronicler of the events in Barfi's life, is beautiful and poised with a heartfelt performance. Her realization of a love lost forever, is tremendously poignant. The supporting cast is apt with a special mention to Saurabh Shukla, playing the police officer forever on trail of that mischief monger Barfi. Ravi Varman's cinematography is magical, in total sync with the tale at hand. Darjeeling is mystical, the paddy fields of nearby villages lush and Calcutta of the 70s where Barfi and Jhilmil find home and love, is vibrant with the majestic Howrah Bridge towering in the background. It would be blasphemous to not mention music director Pritam's tremendous contribution. For a movie of very little words, the background score and songs provide lifelines in evoking a myriad of emotions, capturing every mood exquisitely. There is that perfect old world charm to the tunes.

To watch this movie, one needs to leave cynicism at the door. This is a pure fable, told from the heart to be heard by the heart. The clinching scene for me was when Barfi, who is in the habit of putting his loved ones through a test to gauge their loyalty and faith, puts Jhilmil through that grind after running into a now married Shruti. His heart is confused and he needs answers. Handicap, physical or mental, never acts as a sympathy seeker here. If anything, it tells how truly complete these so called incomplete people of society can be.

It is not to say that the movie does not come without faults. An unnecessary mystery, presumed death does dilute the magic to an extent. But if I really had to point fingers, it would be to the tremendously cliched ending. The last five minutes lets this movie down. It is as though Anurag Basu did not know when to draw the curtains. But all is forgiven as the credits roll at the end and the beautiful song 'Aashiyan' is reprised amidst montages of Barfi and Jhilmils' love filled lives, I am smiling all the way back home and smiling even now as I pen my love for this lyrical ode to love and life.

Released in 2012
In Hindi with English subtitles
My rating: 4.5/5

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