Barfee is directed by Anurag Basu, whose credits include the hugely popular and humongously long teleserial ‘Tara’, movies like ‘Murder’, ‘Gangster’, ‘Life in a Metro’ and the more recent ‘Kites’
Barfee is a very simple movie, with gags and charlie chaplin-esque humor that can wrangle a laugh out of the most cynical heart. It does start with a morose tone of impending doom, painting a larger than life character, who is so glorified right in the beginning, that surely this would be a burden. But something happens in between the movie that we entirely lose track of this angle about halfway into the film. There is a documentarish feel to the earlier proceedings, with people talking directly into the camera.
The narrative is part documentary and part multiple flashbacks. Add to this a significant part of suspense and you have Barfee. Suppose the story was linearly told, one could even comment on the story, plot, concept etc. But it is the manner of storytelling that really stays with you after this one. Not the story. Actually nothing stays with you except your desire to google autism.
The thing with Ranbir Kapoor’s performances is I begin to doubt very seriously if he is emotionally involved at all. He seems to be so capable, that he breezes through his roles. But it is hard to find an emotional connect with his characters. He appears way too self sufficient and in a way transient. I don’t really feel for his character ever, but I always think ‘a very thorough job of acting’ after I watch a character essayed by him. The most I felt for him was in Wake Up Sid and Rocketsingh Salesman. But this is not to take away from him as an actor, but just to quietly ponder about it by myself in a corner.
Illeana was so annoying. Priyanka was not really needed. It was just Anurag Basu and Ranbir Kapoor. The cinematography, art direction, costumes were incidentally very good. Anurag Basu directed his audience more than the movie, or maybe he equally directed them both. And his instrument in this endeavour was Illeana, the other lead actress (!) who told us what to feel and how to feel at all points of time. Not surprising since she was kind of an audience in the film itself and the film is told through her perspective. But this constant feeling of coming second (as an audience, to Illeana) was tiring. One of the other things that happens with Barfee is you can’t identify the film. Seemingly it is about Barfee. But then it is more about Jhilmil and Barfee. Everybody else except for Barfee’s one translator and the inspector (superbly played by Saurabh Shukla) end up as caricatures. Yes, even Illeana (indirectly that would be us, the audience). It is a love story between Barfee and Jhilmil. So the entire first half is really a time filling exercise (ably done by Basu with excellent physical timing, but still).
On an aside, I have to mention here that this happened with Rockstar as well. A love story was given the title of the main protagonist alone. Same with Barfee. As if Ranbir Kapoor makes film makers go mad enough through his performances to completely change the currents and titles of a film!
I never thought I would fondly reminisce about Black (I found it deplorably manipulative and over doctored) but I did after watching Barfee. I would say real life is between the spectrum of these two. One brings on the heavy and the other brings on the light. And both do it to such an extreme that both products remain unpalatable. Although, have to mention both were very successful, critically acclaimed etc (with Black at least a lot of people realized it was Citizen Kane, and I have a feeling about Barfee that this could be the case as well, an unknown Bangkok film perhaps, with Anurag Basu’s track record it is not entirely impossible. Amelie and Jackie Chan are immediately recognizable already)
I miss Vishal Bharadwaj. I miss Saat Khoon Maaf. Which was a slow one. But an entirely honest undertaking. Something engaging.
There was nothing for the mind in Barfee, nothing to be engaged with, just a few transient laughs. Like I already said, one just wants to google autism. Oh, and one also gets reminded of Sadma and one asks the people seated next them if they remembered watching Sadma, and if so, how was it? would it have also made feel a bit brain dead?