I watched Barfi relatively late, after its nomination as the Indian entry for the Oscars has been declared. Now accusations are being levied on this movie for having a good dose of plagiarism, lifting the original idea from Benny & Joon (1993) and several scenes and pieces from various Hollywood movies, finally assembling everything into the final product titled as Barfi, a Hindi movie made in India. Well, the accusations may be true. Let’s not forget that the so-called original movie – Lagaan (2001) was a straightaway lift from Naya Daur (1957) but it escaped the accusation of plagiarism.
After watching this brilliant movie which generates both laughs and tears, I can say that the accusers are forgetting the real inspiration for Anurag Basu, the director and Ranbir Kapoor, the actor. And that real inspiration is Raj Kapoor. Interestingly, the first part of Raj Kapoor’s full name is Ranbir only (complete name is Ranbir Raj Kapoor) and his son, Rishi Kapoor christened his son after the name of his legendary father only. This way Ranbir Kapoor got his name. While watching it in the theatre, the complete movie seemed to me like a tribute to the on-screen personality and several movies of Raj Kapoor, especially Mera Naam Joker (1970). Raj Kapoor himself was inspired by Charlie Chaplin, hence no wonder, this movie as well as Ranbir’s character is Chaplinisque. He is a natural actor and the shoes of his legendary grandfather, the greatest showman of Bollywood, seem to be fitting him perfectly in this movie. He has not copied Raj Kapoor but just contrast his smile with that of young Raj Kapoor in 50-60 years old movies and you will also feel the same as I felt.
Kisi Ki Muskarahaton Pe Ho Nisaar, Kisi Ka Dard Mil Sake To Le Udhaar, Kisi Ke Vaaste Ho Tere Dil Mein Pyaar, Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai. Remember Raj Kapoor ? Find the same message being conveyed by deaf and mute Barfi in this movie who believes in celebrating every moment of his life, not giving a damn for his physical deficiencies..
Barfi is the love-triangle of a deaf-mute boy, an autistic girl and a normal Bengali girl who pass through different tests of life to discover that love is something to feel. It can’t be defined or tested on the norms of the society which strive to clip its wings. The thing I feel that the abnormal characters of this movie knew it beforehand and the discovery was only for the normal girl who sacrificed the most and gained proportionately very less. But the thing is that getting the love of the person you love is not that easy because it depends upon that person as well as the other external factors but loving someone from your side is always easy because it is in your hands and nobody can stop you from that or imprison your sentiments. However, it emerges naturally in your heart and you cannot deliberately love some particular person to suit the practical situation of life (like marriage). That Shruti (Ileana D’ Cruz) learns by loving Barfi (Ranbir Kapoor) who does not love her but an autistic girl, Jhilmil (Priyanka Chopra). Frankly speaking, the base of this story is Barfi, the male but the character which puts all the threads of this story together is Shruti, the losing girl who is satisfied by loving only, letting go the desire to get the love of the man she loves.
The personality of Ranbir (and also many incidents taking place with him) reminded me of Mera Naam Joker, the zenith as well as the Waterloo of Raj Kapoor. However the love-triangle has conspicuous resemblance with a very old classic movie – Goonj Uthi Shehnaai (1959). In Goonj Uthi Shehnaai also, there is the character of Raamkali (akin to that of Shruti in Barfi) who selflessly loves the hero, Kishan (Rajendra Kumar), making a lot of sacrifices for him but without expecting any reciprocation or return. She knows that Kishan actually loves Gopi (Ameeta) but she becomes their accomplice and tries to help them in getting united. The way, Jhilmil is autistic in this movie, the same way, Gopi becomes insentient in that black and white classic movie. And the death comes for both the lovers simultaneously in both the movies with the third angle remaining alive to narrate the story to the world. Well, these similarities (intentional or unintentional) appear to be intriguing. But the thing that I liked in Goonj Uthi Shehnaai is that though Kishan does not love Raamkali (because he loves Gopi), he acknowledges the love of Raamkali for him and feels grateful to her for the sacrifices made by her for his sake. In Barfi, the protagonist is selfish from this angle that he is never shown to feel the abundant love and the great sacrifices of Shruti, leave aside acknowledging them. Shruti’s love is great from this viewpoint and scores over the love of Barfi for Jhilmil.
The suspense factor in this movie is quite weak and anybody can predict the things that are kept under dark for a long time, to be clarified in the final reels. Besides, too many cinematic liberties have been taken. The Chaplinisque comedy is hilarious and the emotional quotient is quite high. It’s a well-made movie for sure despite its certain flaws. As a matter of fact, the pluses outweigh the minuses by a huge margin.
Ranbir Kapoor seems to have been born with acting in his genes. I have never seen him acting bad. In this movie, despite showing glimpses of his late grandfather, he has demonstrated a peculiar originality at the same time. Priyanka Chopra has done marvellously in the difficult role and nobody seems to have noticed the less footage given to her role in the movie. However, the surprise package of this movie is debutante Ileana D’ Cruz. Fresh ! Charming ! Impressive. Her role renders expansion to the roles of the other protagonists and she is simply superb in her performance. Being a Christian in real life, she appears so Bengali that anybody may mistake her to be a Bengali Hindu girl in real life too. Saurabh Shukla has perhaps got the meatiest role of his acting career and he is unforgettable. All others also fit their bill without any deficiency on anybody’s part.
Preetam’s music and Swanand Kirkire’s lyrics both are highly admirable. I like Phir Le Aaya Dil the most which brought tears to my eyes in the theatre. Preetam has kept the melody intact which is a great feat for a Hindi film composer of today.
The art director has brought both Darjeeling and Kolkata alive on the screen. The cinematographer has also done so excellently that several scenes of this movie appear to be like beautiful paintings. It’s a visual treat and hence can be enjoyed better on the big screen.
Dialogs of the movie are very impressive and touching. The editor has used his scissors with such finesse that the film moves quite fast in the first half and at a relatively slow pace in the second half which is completely in sync with the mood of the screenplay in both the halves.
After the movie was over, I felt as if I were dead after living a full life during the two hours and odd minutes spent by me in the theatre. Barfi is imperfect, yet excellent. Will be considered a classic in the times to come.
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