I keep saying this. The point of this blog is not to see how technically advanced a film is or how it flows into the artistic style of the director’s past work. I abstain from writing about these things perhaps because I don’t know enough. What I aim to do is bring to your notice what I see as clandestine rhetoric that perpetuates status quo and oppresses any new line of thought.

In that context, Barfi must have been one of those films that shatters status quo and introduces the viewer to alternate perspectives about disability and relationships. I am not sure it succeeds though.

Barfi can neither hear nor speak. He is a small town simpleton with not-so-materialistic ambitions and an understanding of happiness that comes from within. He is all pranks and is said to be loved by all of Darjeeling. He falls in love (at first sight) with Shruti and woos her – apparently showing her freedom and unconditional love (which she did not see where she is from). Shruti’s mother enacts a scene from ‘The Notebook’ and convinces her not to marry Barfi. Shruti goes to to become Mrs. Sengupta – later to realise that she is in a relationship that has words but no meaning or soul (as against the one with meaning but no words – she could have had with Barfi).

Jhilmil Chatterjee is an autistic young girl living in Muskaan (what looks like a home for the disabled). She doesn’t speak much either; she makes beautiful birds from paper, does not like people touching her and most importantly (for the story to go forward) inherits all of her family’s wealth.

While one is savouring the joy that the innocence of Barfi and Jhilmil shower on us, there is a plot of kidnap and ransom-demanding that pokes itself in. Barfi kidnaps Jhilmil (among other people), writes a ransom note, takes the money from Jhilmil’s father all in an attempt to save his own father who is suffering from a kidney disease. But you see – someone who is supposed to be innocent and joyful getting himself tangled into kidnap does not seem cute to me anymore.

Entangled in this mess is also Jhilmil who can hardly understand what’s going on around her. She trusts her long-time friend Barfi who has in fact kidnapped her for money. They both grow fond of each other that Barfi perceives as love. I say “Barfi perceives” because I am not convinced Jhilmil understands this completely. They run away to Kolkata and seek to live normal lives. Shruti returns to Barfi’s life as Mrs. Sengupta ending up making Jhilmil jealous who goes back to Muskaan (for security/ peace/ familiarity?).

Is the kidnap, alcoholic mother, drowning-in-debt father written as a contrast for the innocent, harmless, genuine, child-like Jhilmil? Is the rich, hard working, urban, Mr. Sengupta a contrast for Barfi? Why couldn’t Shruti have married a rich, hard working, urban man who is also loving, caring, romantic, compassionate and considerate? Aren’t the same problems of black and white characters continuing here? As Shruti’s mother also asks in this film – who says love only happens once? It happened twice to Barfi!

I am still confused about the marriage of the autistic Jhilmil. When she could not comprehend kidnap, how does she comprehend marriage, wedding ceremonies and the relationship (albeit platonic)? What is the love based on?

If the film is to present to the audiences a new perspective on love, happiness, joy, relationships, trust and marriage – well, there is of course merit to the attempt. But it is far from convincing. There is a strange sense of disconnect – from the narrative, the characters, the message we are meant to perceive.


16 thoughts on “Barfi

  1. …but is it worth the watch? Yes. Please go ahead and watch it. Do not abstain from it after reading this blog. There are many scenes that give you hearty laughs. The cinematography is brilliant and the music (dull and repetitive for some) is also pretty nice. Definitely give it one watch. This is a good break from the disgustingly repetitive, nauseating so-called MASALA movies of Hindi cinema.

  2. SUNIL says:

    Hey Ranjani,
    Your comments are acceptable.. there were some logics missing.. But the film do give a special feeling.. Ranbir has actually acted in the movie.. One fact is tat Ranjani.. If we look for a logic.. We’ll never be satisfied.. am not blaming ya.. read ur disclaimer already.. :-) neenga romba strictu.. strictu.. strictu.. :-P

  3. Taren says:

    This movie was such a time waste, I left it when Barfi was trying to kidnap autistic girl. It was such a drag! I will never get those hour and half of my life back. There was nothing original in this movie. Ranbir was trying to copy his Grand Dad, Raj Kapoor at time, such a starking resemblence. Don’t waste your time or money on this. Music from Amelia, and some acting picked up from The Artist. It was such a disillusioned take of reality. I dont understand why Hindi cinema is so stuck in make belive and unrealistic stories. Try to make real cinema and live real lifes not Drama and stupid lies. One indian movie a year and I guess this was it for this year!

  4. About anti-materialist theme,I think, it was the main theme of “3 idiots”. Also recently hit Malayalam movie, “Indian Rupee” falls in the same league. I have seen few other movies recently with this theme as subtle like Ranbir’s previous movie ‘Rockstar’. Of course all were against the rich or the aspiring class.

    Is it a new theme or an existing one? I have seen more popular version of this theme in some old Rajnikanth movies.

    There might a new audience for this theme, who knows!

    1. Anti-materialistic and 3 idiots? I am not so sure. I think it is just differently materialistic – which isn’t so bad. I don’t think one must not be materialistic or anything. I am only noting the rhetoric.
      I must watch Rockstar. I’ve been asked to by enough people already!

  5. Nushi says:

    I am with you on the fact about how much Jhillmil understands love and marrage and the rest that comes with it! Also I think Barfi should have ended up with Shruti instead, as he falls in love at first sight with her, so Jhilmil is only a rebound as well as he falls for her because she doesnt leave him. Its not love, its more friendship or companionship.

  6. Refreshing take!
    The movie is way too derivative for my taste. As @Taren put it there’s too much of Amelie (not Amelia) and Chaplin, Kukijiro, Notebook, Benny & Joon and Cops in it; I’d rather watch the original classics than this derivative.

  7. cynicalcount says:

    To describe the movie in one word – Confused. The director started well but didnt know how to take it forward and made is a mish mash of everything. Ranbir for all praises is strictly okay. About the others the less said the better.

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