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’.
In the breathtakingly beautiful Darjeeling of the 70s, Barfi ‘bumps into’ Shruti (Ileana) and instantly falls in love with her. With wonder-eyes and in part-Chaplin-part-Raj-Kapoor style, he woos her with more ‘actions’ than words and leaves her speechless. He even wins over her heart, but she walks away with a Bengali babu, only because he ‘apparently’ has some abilities (of sound and speech, minus emotion) that Barfi isn’t blessed with.
But don’t worry, this Charlie is no bechara, he gives her a wordless, guttural, ‘earful’, wears his signature smiley and moves on. Soon he reunites with childhood friend Jhilmil (Priyanka) – autistic and abandoned by her wealthy family to live in a ‘special’ home.
In between haath-rickshaw rides, watching fireflies and gulping putchkas – an endearing and special bond grows between Barfi and Jhilmil. Life takes a turn (sharper than the tram-lines of Kolkata), and the destinies of Barfi, Jhilmil and Shruti mysteriously converge.
Ranbir, in the most challenging performance of his career leaves us ‘dumbstruck’. Without use of conventional crutches of cool-catchphrases, dhamaakedar–dialogbaazi, bare-bodies, and other ‘items’; he stuns you in every single frame. Even too much of Barfi isn’t enough, damn the diet!
For Priyanka, there’s only one word – Bravo! In a role where she needs to under-emote, she does so brilliantly. Without stylish chiffons, she wears awkward frocks, buckle-shoes and buck teeth, discarding the diva image like an old hand-me-down for lesser actresses; delivering an incredible performance.
Ileana looks a beautiful Bong bahu, and proves her talent with conviction and confidence in her Bollywood debut.
For a story riddled with disabilities, Barfi is more than ably handled by Anurag Basu. He remarkably immerses you in his world of sounds and verbose silences, recreating Chaplin’s antics, stripping two superstars down to basics and sensitively spinning a magical world of unconditional love. The narrative is too non-linear at times, and the pace slows in the second half. That apart, it’s truly path-breaking for Bollywood.
Pritam’s background score fills the air, lending support to silences, and the lyrics beautifully describe the mute-musings of the characters. The biggest human disability is we can’t find happiness. So go indulge in Barfi! It’ll leave you ‘happy high’!
An almost silent relationship between a deaf-mute and an autistic that speaks volumes about unconditional love.