If there were lines of poetry, written by someone, and he were describing innocence, naughtiness, magic, and dreams, his description would begin with extracting silk from rays of light, painting clouds from dispersed water droplets, autumn leaves hazed out by smoke, floating joy in the evening mingled with all colors of the spectrum. That’s precisely the magic of “Barfi!”. In cinema, the greatest subject, as we have learnt, is the face of the human being, where characters talk, not through words they speak, but through their eyes. And slowly, poetically, lyrically, they come closer, and closer.
This, is that artistic film, where characters, if they talk, they do it via expressions, they don’t simply speak it out. When Shruti (Ileana) tells us that, when she first met Barfi when her parents got relocated to Darjeeling, we are told his back story, of how he earned his name, or how he cried in mute, or he couldn’t listen to shac-shacs, all through a song, the song that refuses to be sentimental, even if there is a devastating reality told, it is still charmingly sweet and amusing. And this is where the film succeeds. It avoids unnecessary schmaltziness, over sentimentality and melodrama, well, almost.
The beauty lies in its moments, and there are plenty. Because every time when it is evening, the frame is never completely lit, but it does gradually, slowly, the lights are turned on, or sometimes, suddenly. Or sometimes, minor details are shown by the moving headlight of the steam train, and suddenly they are hidden again. And the steam train, or fog, or haze, everything that is used to add beauty of this film, seems to be taken from a dream and when everything is so imaginative, and this visual flair is added to the non verbal flow of emotions amongst the characters, you know that the director, Anurag Basu, is gifted, the film is superlative and his cast & crew is ready to give in total commitment, perhaps, they have.
But then sometimes, that isn’t enough. And this film falls short, somewhere. This film, no matter for how long it tries to stay away from melodrama and superfluous show of weakness of its characters, and that pitfall of a film about physically/mentally challenged, it goes straight into it. Just, as another love story takes off. When Barfi tries to help her childhood friend Jhilmil (Priyanka Chopra) who is shown mentally challenged. And this triggers a plot, the greatest weakness of this film. And the focus of the film diverts from the chemistry amidst the characters to the plot, and there this film stumbles, and continues to stumble, even if it drags, in the second half, and drastically towards the end. Perhaps, whenever Ranbir Kapoor Joota Phakes Leather, the movie’s dil goes chicha ledar (he throws his shoe high up in the film, to signal his presence, to call Jhilmil).
Still, even if the unnecessary plot reduces the overall impact marginally, even if Priyanka Chopra isn’t half as effective as she could be (though I must say she isn’t bad, she is just not good enough), this film still gives us that rare magical cinematic elegance, as Scorsese told us in his own dreamy masterpiece, Hugo, cinema can be used to create and capture dreams, that we just don’t find in Hindi movies these days. And this film gives us that, along with characters who don’t speak, they widen their eyes, they squeeze it, they have a very beautiful grin on their face when they meet, and they look at each other, for a long time, or they don’t, even if they do, it is more than visible that they are thinking about something else, even if they are seeing something, they are thinking something else.
And this was just not possible without the tremendous effort put in by the technicians. The magic wouldn’t be half as effective if it was not properly shot by Varman’s far more than effective imagery, or Poddar’s authentic production design, or striking costumes, or Pritam’s & Amitabh Bhattacharya’s songs. And score, those scenes, would have terribly missed the background score, even if Pritam pays homage to Michael Giacchino’s “Married Life” from the film “Up!” when Ranbir Kapoor throws his shoe high up for the first time, still when the whole film pays homage to Charile Chaplin and The Notebook, I don’t mind that with the soundtrack too, it really works, more than most of the times when we produce the cacophonous ear drum exploding score.
And the actors, Ranbir Kapoor outdoes, everyone we have in our industry, everyone. It is this performance we as an audience, and this character he as an actor of this calibre, deserves. It is unique, subtle, powerful, enchanting, with his shoulders high above all, all in this film. Ileana, who most of the times, as her character demands, is plain vulnerable, and she does her part so well, that seeing what and how Shruti goes through makes your heart melt. Priyanka Chopra, falls into the pitfall, perhaps her story, which forms the major part of the film, is the weakness, and the culmination, because it reduces the overall impact, also makes the experience tiring to some extent, she does it fine, if, first of all, her character sketch wasn’t overdone, secondly, her story supported her well, either of the two don’t happen and only weaken the film.
Still, for every fiber of light that floats in the air, saturated color that literally moves in the forms of costumes, players of the skit in a traditional marriage, or a refracted image through a transparent sphere of glass, the whole film feels magical, every subconscious calculation that directs a physical movement, or every test of loyalty is bizarre and funny in its own way, and it is rich and dense and colorful. For that glossy imagery, masterful expressions, and cinematic purity, where characters feel more than they think, “Barfi” as a film must be applauded. It would be a masterpiece, if only Barfi hadn’t thrown his shoe, so high up.
First Published on Madaboutmoviez