Reviewing the Reviews: Barfi!

17 Sep,2012


Key Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Ileana D’Cruz

Written and Directed By: Anurag Basu

Produced By: Ronnie Screwvala, Siddharth Roy Kapoor


Anurag Basu’s last film was the disastrous Kites, so he really needed to prove his credentials again. The charming, though often oversweet story of a deaf-mute man and the two loves of his life is so far ahead of the regular Bollywood mainstream tripe, that hardly any critic had the heart to give it less than 3 stars, and gently point some of its flaws. Everyone agreed, however, that Ranbir Kapoor is brilliant and his two leading ladies, Priyanka Chopra and Ileana D’Cruz, were excellent too.


Rajeev Masand of Ibnlive wrote, “That rare film that puts a smile on your face even before a single frame of the story is revealed, Anurag Basu’s Barfi envelopes you like a warm blanket from the moment you settle into your seat. Even as routine acknowledgements appear on a black screen, you’re charmed by the accompanying ditty, Picture shuru, whose chorus instructs you to switch off your phones and submit yourself to the experience that follows.” Still he stuck with 3 stars.


Anupama Chopra of Hindustan Times offered reluctant praise and 3 stars. “In Barfi, writer-director Anurag Basu creates a gossamer, fairy-tale world. Sometime in the 1970s, somewhere in the misty hills of Darjeeling, a penniless but irresistibly charming deaf-mute boy named Barfi gets the prettiest girl in town to kiss him. But their sweetly awkward love affair comes undone, after which Barfi embarks on an adventure with an autistic girl. Somehow these two, on their own, manage to survive the city of Kolkata – Barfi gets a job and even a ramshackle house with a spectacular view of Howrah Bridge. To point out that this is unlikely seems churlish. Because Barfi is designed to be a bittersweet, tender fable.”


Shubra Gupta of the Indian Express also gave it three and commented. “Just the fact that this film’s chief focus is on two people who cannot communicate the way you and I do, makes it automatically different. Barfi!’ comes out of mainstream Bollywood, whose standard idea of creating difference is to shuffle one step forward, two steps back : given that context, and its subject, Barfi! does take several brave strides. It’s good in many ways; what stops it from being a great film is a degree of fuzziness, and an insistence on prettiness.”


Raja Sen called it flawed but still had good things to say. “Romance is never easy. Neither is bringing it to the big screen, though Anurag Basu – a filmmaker inherently gifted when it comes to visual imagery and metaphor – is a fine man for the job. He can roll up his sleeves and whip out one peachy moment after another, keeping things wonderfully endearing while poking the audience ever so forcefully in the gut with a monkey-wrench. He is then to be commended for his latest, Barfi!, a film that admirably refuses to yank the sympathy cord. Instead, it creates genuine characters and a truly charming relationship before, alas, one of his lead characters chooses not to follow the director’s example and instead mistakes sympathy for love, making for a lesser film than it deserved to be.”


Madhureeta Mukherjee of the Times of India, expectedly went with 4.5 stars – the highest it received. “He was born to a song playing on a Murphy radio, but this ‘Murphy’ baby (Ranbir) aka Barfi has a different law. Everything that has to go wrong will go wrong, but not if you brave it with a broad smiley. So ‘mute’ the high-decibel chaos and deafening melodrama around and tune into Barfi ki duniya; which is simple, sweet and SILENT! Yet, extreme emotions of love, joy and pain resound – at different ‘frequencies’.”


The always-enthusiastic Taran Adarsh of gave it a relatively mingy 4 stars, going by the rave. “On the whole, Barfi! is unusual for Bollywood. You don’t formulate movies like Barfii! targeting its box-office potential or its commercial prospects. You create such films for the passion of cinema. Barfi! is akin to a whiff of fresh air. Its foremost triumph is that it leaves you with a powerful emotion: Happiness! I sincerely believe no Hindi movie buff should deprive himself/herself of watching this brilliant motion picture. Also, the viewer needs to savour Ranbir, Priyanka and Ileana’s paramount performances, one of the strengths of this movie. Strongly recommended!”


Aniruddha Guha of DNA gushed, “A movie like Barfi! comes along rarely. It’s a film that engages you at a personal level, playfully nudging you to experience various emotions without really resorting to overt manipulation, one that makes you laugh and cry at the same time, and reminds you of what Roberto Benigni told us some time ago: Life is beautiful.”


Kunal Guha of who is usually acerbic softened enough to write, “When a movie begins by revealing the grim end, no matter how cheerful the following flashback journey may be, you’re left dreading the inevitable. But Barfi! manages to make you forget just that by narrating a lighthearted tragedy that wins particularly for what it doesn’t do: It doesn’t draw a pitiful picture of the deaf-mute lead. It doesn’t attempt to do anything that would suggest that it has been made to attract foreign festival ferns on the DVD cover. It doesn’t make the lead character overcome his disability to do something no man, woman or dog (without that disability) would ever think of attempting.”


So the one rant by Karan Bali from went, “No doubt, it’s commendable that Barfi! tries to treat its plot and characters in an endearing Chaplinesque sort of way by mixing light and slapstick humour with a tug or two at the heart-strings – and I’ll even say that you so want it to work, and not just box-office wise, for more better, sensible films to be made in Bollywood – but sadly, the film is unable to quite pull it off. Yes, it has its charming moments, it boasts of some great visual quality in places, even has good performances but still ends up finally as being curiously uninvolving and, dare I say it, boring, its length really telling in the second half.”


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