Monday, September 17, 2012


Barfi! treads where few films do: into the realm of irreverence, recalling the days of Buster Keaton and the hidden little heartwarming scenes of Jacques Tati: however, the wonder of Barfi! is that it also combines with all this the cheerful boisterousness of India with its attendant chaos and liberty. Genre-slotters will be hard-pressed to call this film a comedy, a musical or a romance, and even further stressed to note that the film excels in every one of these areas.

The film’s strength is its ability to keep the viewers laughing endlessly through to the end: and its greatness goes even beyond this, for it does not try to whip up any sentimental air of fighting against all odds, as is common with every film featuring a deaf-mute or blind person as its central protagonist (cf. Bhansali’s terribly degrading Black): rather, it even pokes fun in the traditional way (munna mute hi aansu bahaye: “the baby sheds tears in mute mode...” being one of the lines of a song that can come only from India) and thus lifts the character out of the zone of charity and snivelling – rather it is Ranbir as Barfi who is poking fun at you at every step of the film. The film does falter at the very end, doing a Kisna-like act, wherein variegated characters are waiting outside the sick room, and then we are shown unneeded scenes from the old couple’s life: why not leave to the viewer to imagine how did Barfi and Jhilmil live together? These are not the only faults of the film, a very curious editing of the narrative being another: but all is forgiven for the sheer joy of living that the film manages to inspire, evoke and feel. The film does copy several scenes from many Keaton and Chaplin films, but adds many new ones to the repertoire: so all in all it doesn’t grate much, and Ranbir anyway gives it all a new zest.

I hope Anurag Basu keeps on making films in his beautifully fluid style: every one of his films that he has written as well besides directing has been at least worth watching, with Gangster and Barfi! being the standout exceptions of Hindi cinema. With Kites, even though the film was good, I felt a danger of him succumbing to big stars, big money, as happened with Bhansali; but here he avoids that: now all he needs to be alert to is not to go for over-stylization and glamour, as Barfi! relies heavily on it, but in a Tati-like film wherein stunts and slapstick play a huge role that is a strength rather than weakness.

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