Saturday, September 15, 2012


Sunshine Boy

Ranbir Kapoor is the wonder boy of Bollywood today—a star who manages to go against all image-building rules.  If he were a conventional star, Anurag Basu would probably never have got him to sign up for Barfi.  So completely has Ranbir immersed himself into the part, that you can’t imagine anyone else doing it.

The same would go for Priyanka Chopra, who sheds her glamorous persona, and plays a child-like Jhilmil, without any self-consciousness.  The third side of this unusual love triangle is the radiant Ileana D’Cruz, as a young woman led by her heart.

Basu’s film may often trip over into treacle, but his three characters remain endearing. The love story is told with a back-and-forth narrative style, with a hint of crime and suspense, unfolding in Darjeeling, Kolkata and some parts in a village— an age of innocence and fairy-tale sparkle created with solid production design and shot beautifully.

Murphy (Kapoor) is the deaf-mute son of a chauffeur (Akash Khurana), and called Barfi in all Darjeeling, because he quacks his name out sounding like that—the name comes from Murphy Radio, whose cute baby mascot was advertised heavily in the seventies when a large part of the film is set, giving the filmmaker a chance to play around with period props and costumes.

Barfi falls in love at first sight with the beautiful Shruti, who is engaged to a suitable man, but is drawn to the mischief and charm of Barfi.  Her wise mother (Rupa Ganguly) gently guides her away from what she thinks is a doomed life with a poor and differently abled man.  (It’s only in the movies that lack of money is never a constraint, and poor people live in pretty barsatis.)

Meanwhile, there’s the autistic (retarded actually) Jhilmil who is unwanted by her parents, but for her wealth.   Barfi happens to take her under his wing, and then she refuses to let go.  The local cop (Saurabh Shukla) gets caught up in all this intrigue, and, chasing Barfi up and down crowded streets and rooftops, complains that his waistline has reduced.

It is an idealised universe of the filmmaker’s imagination, and there is the nostalgic desire evoked even in the viewer for a world in which love is all it takes.  Basu does tend to overdo the cute quotient, but the actors just carry it off.  In a harsh, cynical world, maybe Barfi is a small, very welcome shower of sweetness and light.


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