Review of Barfi!


Movie Review: "Barfi!"

-- Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Length: 155 minutes
Release Date: September 12, 2012
Directed by: Anurag Basu
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Romance

"Barfi!" is an Indian movie, but it is far from your typical Bollywood fare. It stars Ranbir Kapoor as the lead character, whose real name is actually Murphy. Nobody calls him by his real name, which is perfectly fine with Barfi since he is deaf and can't hear what anyone calls him anyway. Despite his physical limitation, Barfi is always quick with a smile, which is apparently contagious since so many around him seem to smile when he is around.

One day, a new family comes into his hometown of Darjeeling, and Barfi takes an interest in the daughter, Shruti (Ileana D'Cruz). Unfortunately for him, she is engaged to another man but enjoys the company of the merry troublemaker Barfi, so they become friends quickly. She seems to enjoy his almost impish way of going about his daily tasks. He is something of a merry troublemaker, even occasionally finding himself in trouble with the law. As the two become close, the audience will likely start to take a shine to Barfi, too.

As Barfi and Shruti continue to get closer, you can tell that she is beginning to fall for him as well. The two actors have a natural chemistry that never makes you question whether or not they are falling in love, but instead makes you wonder if they will be able to end up together. Shruti's family is very traditional, and in the 1970s, when the story takes place, engagements were never broken up, even if they were arranged between two people who don't love each other.

To complicate things, Barfi's father falls ill and is in need of some fairly expensive medical treatment. The family has no money or insurance to cover the doctor's visits, so Barfi hatches an ill-fated plan to get the money for him. He kidnaps Jhilmil (Priyanka Chopra), the granddaughter of one of the richest men in Darjeeling.

Jhilmil is autistic, which makes it hard for her to communicate with the deaf and mostly mute Barfi. Their interactions come with a few laughs as they try desperately to get their point across to each other with only gestures and hand signals. As they finally settle down and find a way to "talk" to each other, the sparks begin to fly, complicating Barfi's possible relationship with Shruti.

Despite so little dialogue being exchanged between the members of the story's love triangle, the film is still excellent. The script deploys comical little mishaps to add to the facial expressions of the cast. For example, when Barfi leaves Shruti's parent's house after unsuccessfully asking for her hand in marriage, the chain on his bike falls off, forcing him to walk while pushing the bike. A bike chain could easily be overlooked in most films, but not in this one. It becomes a part of the overall expression of Barfi's frustration at his very complicated love life.

Kapoor is something of a revelation in the titular role, using physicality and facial expressions to get his point across. He carries the movie with the ease of someone far older and more experienced in acting than he is. It is really hard to keep the energy level up in a film where most of the leads either don't speak at all or speak very little. Against all odds, the energy level of "Barfi!" is very high at all times, which has everything to do with Kapoor's performance.

Director Anurag Basu made the film with a touch of whimsy that makes you wonder if he had been watching classic French love films, which are full of whimsical themes. The whimsy comes despite the fact that much of the film has a slightly bitter undertone, even when things are going well for the protagonists. Basu manages to balance the bitter and the sweet to make a film that is as emotionally complete as any award-winning production.

Despite the bitter undertones, the film ends on a hopeful note, a testament to Basu's own life. He was diagnosed with leukemia at a young age and has survived to carve out a thriving film career. That adversity and how it transforms you is splashed all over the pages of the script, which he co-wrote with Sanjeev Dutta. "Barfi!" may introduce him to a new international audience who will likely be waiting for his next film with bated breath. "Barfi!" is good enough to make you feel that way.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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