COME FALL IN LOVE
It's nearly impossible to translate the subliminal magic of Anurag Basu's Barfi into words. This is a film to be experienced and surrendered to. Even when it meanders, sometimes aimlessly, through the bewitching hills atop a toy train, when the plot gets confusing and the narrative's payoff isn't as refreshing as you'd expected. You just go with the flow from the moment Barfi (Ranbir Kapoor) takes off with a song on his wordless lips, floating like a luminescent presence on his feet, on bicycles, horses, carriages, buses, trams, you name it...
He speaks with his eyes and his hands and most of all, his smile that draws you into a warm embrace, tickling you gently with the touch of a feather, sparkling through mirrors like the glow of a thousand suns, dreaming up joys and sharing them selflessly with everyone around. Here is a hero true to Chaplin's spirit, undefeated by hardships and heartbreak.
With one poetic stroke, Basu nearly remedies all the harm Hindi cinema has done in its depiction of disability -- particularly the high-strung melodramas of Sanjay Leela Bhansali wringing his characters for a few tears more. I say nearly, because Basu had the recipe for a masterpiece. But either he got carried away with the material, or simply copped out to box-office pressures.
Having said that, when was the last time you laughed, not at corny jokes or because someone slipped on a banana peel, but at life's everyday quirks and charms? So here's eternally cheerful Barfi (who was born Murphy) falling in love with rich city girl Shruti (Ileana D'Cruz making her Bollywood debut after a stint in Telugu cinema) even though she's engaged to another man. He woos her tirelessly -- it may even seem obsessively, except his methods aren't offensive in the vein of Bollywood's self-styled romeos. Her heart skips a beat, before kindly mother (Rupa Ganguly) gives her a little pep talk about the practical side of life.
Meanwhile, in another corner of Darjeeling is Jhilmil (Priyanka Chopra, awkward at first, but gets better as things proceed), an autistic girl and Barfi's childhood friend with family issues that threaten her very existence. Barfi has an emergency of his own, leading to said convoluted plot involving a botched kidnapping, a double ransom and many tedious twists, with Saurabh Shukla thrown in as a podgy inspector who has made chasing Barfi his life's mission.
Ravi Varman's cinematography displays a diaphanous quality, like living in a dream world -- Basu throws in three minstrels on the edge of scenes to reaffirm the film's fantastic tone, while Pritam's background score carries a distinct Chaplin-esque aura. It's an enchanting world of laughter and pure magic with Ranbir Kapoor's effervescent persona at its centre.
Watching his antics and sheer physical energy, one couldn't help wish he and Basu would get cracking on that Kishore Kumar biopic. After Barfi, what a delight that would be!