SPOILER ALERT - Although I am not giving away much, this review, well rant, is meant more for people who have seen the film. I would have loved to give a short write-up on the story but I honestly have no clue where to begin and where to end, somewhat like the story of the film which has no apparent direction.
There I was being dragged to watch Barfi, again. We didn't actually watch the film the first time around because my dear wife got the timings wrong, and I was joyous thinking I had averted watching the film. How wrong was I and here on a somewhat cool Friday morning I found myself driving once again to witness the so called "marvel" that is Barfi.
Barfi has been the talk of the town since its release a week back. Reading some of reviews online, it has been described as "poetry in motion" or was it "poetry in celluloid" and other mushy-mushy romanticized words in conjunction with the word poetry. Well, let me get the facts straight, it's not. It's not poetry of any kind, and if the title of the post didn't tell you, I’m here to categorically state why the film, in my opinion, is overhyped and overrated.
Different Doesn't Make Good - Talking to people about the film, the consensus seems to be that the film is good because it's different, or tries to be. Is that all we look for in a film? Don't we crave and demand a different film every time we step into a theater? Don't we hear filmmakers say that their film is "different" day in and day out, even when it is not? So why should we be satisfied by just the film being different even though it is not a good film on the whole? Also, let me tell you that it is not really a different film. It's a film that has been sugarcoated in sweetness and emotions to seem different. But, the fact remains; I shall not deem the film to be a good film just because it tries to be different.
Here, There, Everywhere - That's the story of Barfi for you. Spanning over three different time periods, the film is full of so much useless acts and information that it is merely a hotchpotch of drama, forced emotions, and comedy. It's a love story, a story about heartbreak, with a kidnapping thrown in between, and a bank heist, and murder and death for extra measure, and writing about it does make it sounds brilliant, but it's not. There's an autistic Priyanka Chopra, a mute and deaf Ranbir Kapoor, and the girl-next-door Illeana D'Cruz along with an array of supporting characters. It's also a story about making the most of your life and enjoying the smallest things in... Oh you know the usual crap! It seems that the story writers and film makers sat down and brainstormed ideas and then in place of sorting them out decided to put in every idea that was on the table.
Comedy Undone - A huge part of Barfi, the film and the character, is slapstick comedy. We saw quite a bit of it in advertisements and TV spots that have been on for almost a month now. Whatever rest there is just seems to have been copied from the West. It's all Chaplin-esq and I know they give homage to him by showing his cardboard cutout in the start for a second, big whoopee!! Whatever is left is very Roberto Benigni and there is even an act from Singing in the Rain's "Make 'em Laugh". So yes, if there is something original, it's buried way too deep amongst all the copied slapstick acts.
Back to the Future - The other most annoying aspect of the film is that it tries to play havoc with the timeline. The film jumps from one era/year to another and having a poor storyline just adds to the frustration. Let's not even get into the presentation of the film. Okay I will just for a bit. At times it is a first person account while at others it shows people being interviewed, by God knows who, and then there are times when the film runs like a normal everyday film. Did I say there is just too much going on and no apparent direction to it all? YES I DID!!
UnCharacteristic - Now for the characters. I cannot comment much on Priyanka Chopra's portrayal of the autistic Jhilmil, but I will say that she is not at all comfortable in the role. Her act is just that, an act, and while she is obviously trying really hard, it just doesn't come across all that great on the screen.
Ranbir Kapoor's Barfi IS the best part about film, and one of the reasons why I did like his act is that I could not think of anyone else who could have played the character as seamlessly as he did. Although, yes there is one, he did play a somewhat similar part in Ajab Prem Ki Gazab Kahani, but nevertheless he should be commended for experimenting. The same also holds true for Priyanka Chopra.
As for Iliana D'Cruz's Shruti, she gets the most annoying character in the film award. As an actress Iliana has done a wonderful girl-next-door with unnecessary emotional baggage role real well, but the character is just too filmy, for lack of a better word. Here is a woman who is about to get married to her college sweetheart, sort of, and falls in love with our hero Barfi while on vacation for three months in Darjeeling. Then, without any real pressure from her mother played by Rupa Ganguly, she leaves Barfi. Later when Barfi again comes into her life, she falls in love with him, or rather realizes that she always was in love with him, because now he loves Jhilmil. When Jhilmil leaves, Shruti leaves her husband and starts to live with Barfi, and then afterwards ... you get the point. I think the girl just needed a reality check and a nice sit-down scolding so she could make up her mind once and for all and live with it.
Give Me Back My Time - Why do Indian film makers still feel that they need to make a long film for it to be considered a good film? Barfi is a much better film till half time, around the one-and-a-half-hour mark, but the second half is simply torture. I still do not understand the need to make a two-and-a-half-hour film that could have been polished better and presented in a little more than half the time.
Preachy Peachy - Indian cinema is going through a revolution. It seems that the newest trend is to take up social issues or if not that then preach about how we should live our life. Barfi falls in the same bracket. It tries to tell us that love sees no boundaries. You need to feel love. True love is never leaving the one you love. Blah Blah Blah! Give me a good story with a meaning any day and i'll be happy with that, but don't preach things by being overly emotional about them.
The Aunty Make-Up – Yeah! I’m usually the last person to crib about make-up, not saying it’s not important, but when the entire primary cast is made to look old, all I wanted to shout was “Your wig, your wig is just too blatantly obvious”.
The Good Stuff – Barfi is not all bad. It has its good moments too. What does stand out is the cinematography and the editing which is outstanding and the only saving grace of the entire film. At least visually the film kept me interested.
The Luck of The Seats - Lastly, my rant takes on a more personal aspect. This has nothing to do with the film really, but more with the people who were sitting behind me. Yes, the two girls who probably told their parents that they were going to college and ended up being the bane of my movie watching experience. I think these two nincompoops took the opportunity of the film being somewhat of a silent-film as an indication that they could give each other running commentary of what was happening on the screen. "Look he's wearing a green sweater", "Look he fell down", "Oh no how is he going to hear when he is deaf"... WILL YOU JUST SHUT UP!
...and so shall I