Darjeeling, Toytrain, Kolkata and...............Chaplin .
Barfi is a superb example of how a film can be made without action,rape,item number,special effect gimmicks and excess hardsell and yet make you feel light and easy while making your eyes moist .
The story line is very simple and deals with the difficult subject of autism and muteness on the outer core. But within the simple storyline lies the intricate details of human relationships and above all how love and faith conquers everything
Anurag Basu has made a very emotional film , not of the sugary, syrupy kind but one that is created of poignant shots and subtle nuances. It is out and out a Director's film and he deserves credit for such fine handling of the subject. The movie actually makes you feel good . There is a lot of pains and sorrow in the story but all of them have been tackled in a polished manner. A layer of humour covers the whole of the movie, much like a comfortable shawl which you need to wrap around in Darjeeling.
Very intelligently, the director has used Darjeeling and North Kolkata as the location of the story as he needed to depict the late seventies and these two locations have undergone very little change from outside. The scenes of Darjeeling , particularly will make you feel nostalgic if you have spent some time there. Here I have to make a point . Surprisingly and probably intentionally or being logistically challenged, the Kanchenjungha has been omitted and has never been shown. I wonder why ?
The fascination with Howrah bridge as a motif of Kolkata is strong in this movie and the rooftop Barsaati (Chilekotha in Bengali) along with trams and narrow byelanes (Galis) are brilliantly shot and perhaps after Kahaani, again the national audience will discover the charm in the madness of Kolkata.
The movie has minimal dialogues as the two main protagonists are not able to speak properly. Yet the acting of all the three main actors and also the supporting cast is terrific. Coming to the acting by the lead players I would give full credit to the beautiful Ileana for her outstanding performance as she had to play second fiddle throughout and her role needed a lot of underacting. She looks terrific and brings out freshness on the screen which I last felt watching Amrita Rao in Welcome to Sajjanpur. I hope and wish that she has a great career in films. Priyanka has already proved that she is one of the best actress among the present crop of A listers (after Vidya Balan, off course) in her previous movies. But this time she was up against it as an autistic young girl sans glamour , She has taken the challenge by the horns and have delivered a fantastic performance. Her acting sets a new mark obliterating the previous portrayls of challenged personalities by SriDevi (Sadma) and Rani (Black). Full marks to Priyanka, one of my favourite actors . Her physical attributes of fleshy lips and strong white teeth have been so convincingly used by her to display vulnerability and candidness.
Ranbir Kapoor has got a very meaty role and dominates the screen by his presence as a deaf and dumb character. He portrays the role very well and comes out the tops. But he and the director both lean heavily on Chaplin for inspiration . Still , he is a much greater improvement on his grandfather in copying the great master. For a person who has seen almost all great works of Chaplin, it will bring a sense of deja vu and one will always measure his otherwise superb acting with a different yardstick. But you have to admit that here he is neither a chocolate hero nor an angst ridden young man with heavy doses of action. Yet he has brought life to Barfi with his acting.
What really stops the film from becoming an excellent movie is the narrative structure which sometimes gives you a feeling of discontinuity and is neither here or there. The editing also lacks imagination. These technical flaws mar an otherwise well intended movie. As a total package, Barfi is very good and will touch your heart. As long as you watch the movie, you will like it and carry the good vibes generated from the movie along with you as you leave the theatre. And yes one must make all children see this movie to make them appreciate the problems of the physically and mentally challenged persons . Also they need to see these sort of movies to understand how beautiful the gifts of life and love are.
Barfi is a differently made film dealing with challenges of the differently abled persons.