Barfi : A Review
by Rajeev Anil Roark
First, obviously, The Story
Barfi is the story of Murphy, the namesake arising from a radio that also killed his mother through an electric shock. I am sure fans of nabokovian Literature see this as poetic for plagiarising the Radio’s name. Named Murphy, his muteness renders his incapable of any conversation through our often taken for granted methods and he can only squeal his name to be misheard as Barfi.
Anurag Basu’s penchant to provide complexity and character development through triangular dynamics between his protagonists has been a signature since his TV series Love Story. Be it Akash-Shruti-Dev or Kites’ Jai-Natasha-Gina (Hrithik-Barbara-Kangana) or Jhilmil-Barfi-Shruti in this story, he provides ample amount of space for his characters to both develop by themselves in attributes and via their co-characters in terms of personalities.
The layering of the film has enabled the narrative to gain subtle depths in certain moments, such as Pouty’s character Jhilmil’s wide eyed fear towards the world quickly transformed into a warmer wide eyed awe when seen through the glass orb she is gifted by her ailing grandfather. It also provides a beautiful link between her comfort and trust of the wrinkled smiles around her and the unease from the clear sharp gazes of the younger parents and fellow characters.
My favorite part of her character’s development through to the end was her wisening up enough to stroke Shruti’s cheek in consolation when she breaks down in tears, from the guarded arm she stretches across Barfi when he comes to pick her up from Daaju’s place. The cherry on the top was the bobblyhead fascination of Jhilmil with the handheld “pankha” she uses when Barfi eats which is continued in their elderly avatars too.
To be honest, Barfi is a canvas where Jhilmil’s character is the true protagonist fueling the narrative while both Barfi and Shruti are either witnesses or catalysts. Ileana D’cruz with her doe-eyed features doesn’t really bring anything new to the story, not unlike any of the other debutantes such as Isha Gupta or Shriya Saran. Her role is limited to providing a beautiful face to look at.
Ranbir, as expected, brings forth a slightly off-kilter persona that evokes both affection for his antics as well as a vague sense of wariness that arises from the frequency of these antics. Gullible characters around him, often accompany him in his antics out of sheer joy of his company or maybe sympathy. Performance wise, not particularly a very good performance. Ranbir sure looks eager to vent out the physical energy through Barfi’s hectic and erratic running after his restraint in Rajneeti and Rockstar.
Pouty, for once, has actually managed a character that to me, is tolerable. I was apprehensive regarding her constant penchant of overcompensating charm of skills with puffed up lips and puppy dog eyes, yet she manages to impress and evoke affection with her slightly less dramatic, a little more earthen interpretation of an autistic person. Without crossing into the much convenient expanse of loud theatricality, she manages to express her character through her eyes and more importantly through her hands.
Ileana as I mentioned above, is lukewarm. She did a better job in her character as the elderly Shruti Ghosh who meets Barfi on his death bed. The slow, lilting dialogs of this particular part of her character were both enchanting and impressive to prove that she has potential, provided that she does not entirely stick to playing the safe game.
In all fairness, Barfi’s music is not really necessary. I’d much rather have preferred that the music would be entirely absent in terms of background score of the movie. Ranbir’s character was expressive enough to leave negligible margin to interpret the narrative. Music, was a much more simple tactic of spoon-feeding the audience the emotionality of the narrative. Especially the scene of Barfi and Shruti’s last true companionship, where he apologizes and leaves her life for good, was ruined for me by the overtly sad and loud music. The director and music director could have used the silence much better.
A special mention to Saurabh Shukla was his brilliant portrayal of a police officer constantly dancing around the line of compassion and duty, rolling his eyes at the summons by higher officer while slapping Barfi in a fatherly manner to bring him in line. Brilliant acting, brilliant accomplice in the physical comedy that Ranbir’s Barfi engages in.
While not exactly a one time watch, Barfi is definitely a wonderful watch which can be seen in order to understand it better a couple of times.
My Verdict : 9/10.