Barfi!: Falls short on novelty

Mumbai: Barfi! Is an adventurous subject to take up to make into a film. It deals with two disabled persons, their love story, and another woman who has lost out on her love. The film attempts to weave a drama around them.

Producers: Ronnie Screvwala, Siddharth Roy Kapoor.
Director: Anurag Basu.
Cast: Priyanka Chopra, Ranbir Kapoor, Ileana D‘Cruz, Saurabh Shukla, Akash Khurana, Sumona Chakravarty, Ashish Vidyarthi, Roopa Ganguly.

Several films have been made on the subject of autism abroad, including the classic Rainman. In India the favourite theme for emotional appeal has been cancer; there have been a few attempts to take on subjects relating to physically-challenged or disabled people. Apart from the 1972 film Koshish and 1980 film Sparsh, there were no attempts to explore such themes until recently, when one saw films like Black, Taare Zameen Par, Paa, My Name Is Khan and so on.

Barfi! creates a love triangle between a deaf-and-mute Ranbir Kapoor (called Barfi), an autism-inflicted Priyanka Chopra and a normal girl, Ileana D‘Cruz.

The film starts with D‘Cruz receiving a picture of Barfi that she had always sought and that he had promised she would get before he died. This takes us into the first of the film‘s many flashbacks.

Kapoor is born the day a Murphy radio arrives in his house in the hill station of Darjeeling but his mother dies giving him birth. The film sums up this as "Murphy on hua and mummy off hui." However, Kapoor gets the name Murphy which is the only word he can speak-but as Barfi. Despite his shortcomings, Barfi is a happy-go-lucky boy, always playing pranks. He is pampered by his father, Akash Khurana, a driver by profession. Barfi discovers love when Ileana arrives on the scene accompanied by her saheli, Sumona Chakravarty (cliché). He is besotted and learns the art of wooing D‘Cruz who soon falls for his innocence. With this also starts her dilemma since she is already engaged, which Barfi doesn‘t consider much of a hindrance. However, Ileana is soon married off.
Barfi gets no time to miss her. Chopra, an autistic girl who Barfi has known since childhood emerges on the scene, back from the caretaker institution where she was left since childhood when her mother, Roopa Ganguly, tried to kill her in drunken frenzy. Barfi can‘t hear his father writhe in pain and trying to draw his attention when he suffers a heart attack (cliché). Barfi now needs Rs 7,000 for his father‘s operation and to raise the money he plans to kidnap Priyanka Chopra. His plan falls flat but he is implicated in any case because Chopra is kidnapped by someone else. As things happen, Barfi is saddled with Chopra and becomes protective about her and she in turn becomes possessive about Barfi.

The film does not end with Barfi and Chopra finding love. It changes tracks to add the thrill element. Barfi is the only suspect in Chopra‘s kidnapping and on the run from the police. He ends up in Kolkata and takes to inscribing buyers‘ names on metal utensils, a way to bring him and D‘Cruz, now married and settled in the city, face to face again. Some more drama follows until Ileana receives Barfi‘s picture, which is a message that he is dying. She comes to witness the lovers, Barfi and Chopra, die in each others‘ arms (ultimate cliché).

For the kind of theme the film tackles, it is too lengthy at 150 minutes. There are multiple flashbacks and the film meanders endlessly with repetitions aplenty. The film‘s saving graces, to an extent, are Ranbir‘s light-hearted character and scenic Darjeeling.

Chopra enacts a challenging role of one with autism; she has but few words to speak throughout the film and since autism patients have no pattern of behaviour or symptoms common to all there are no bindings on her. She has adopted a few mannerisms and stuck to them consistently. Kapoor‘s task has been made easy because his character does not have to suffer his deficiencies but can play a normal fun-loving youth in Charlie Chaplin mode. The scenes between him and Shukla are copybook Chaplin. D‘Cruz has done very well in a deglamourised role. Saurabh Shukla is effective as a small-town cop.

Direction is patchy. Nowhere do you empathise with the characters on screen nor does the film manage to touch you emotionally. The film has just two scenes that appeal; when Barfi embarks on Ileana‘s family with a letter asking for her hand and later when Chopra makes a gesture as if blocking Ileana coming closer to Kapoor. A couple of the songs are peppy. Background score is good with musicians shown performing live on screen. Cinematography is very good.

Barfi! is a limited appeal film. The film has been released with a calculated exposure avoiding single screens wherever needed. While awards may come its way, rewards will be hard to come by.

Jeena Hai Toh Thok Daal: Fails to impress on any count

Producer: Aparna Hoshing.
Director: Manish Vastalaya.
Cast: Ravi Kishan, Manish Vastalya, Hazel Crowney, Yashpal Sharma, Rahul Kumar, Pooja Welling, Sharat Saxena, Govind Namdeo, Murli Sharma, Ashwaini Kalsikar, Ganesh Yadav.

Mumbai: The malady continues. The new bunch landing in filmdom from Bihar or UP wants to make their brand of films. But does having a Bihari background or lead characters mean a film full of foul language? Is that the essence of Bihar or that it makes a film realistic or hard-hitting? Foul words are the chief offering in Jeena Hai Toh Thok Daal and the only place it manages to hit hard is one‘s senses.

Three good-for-nothing lads, Ravi Kishan, Manish Vatsalya and Rahul Kumar are criminals so petty they dart for the local railways bridge over the Ganga when a train is due to pass and position themselves to collect the coins believers throw in the holy river. The bunch has been brought up and tended by Yashpal Sharma who himself does not seem to have any vocation. But they can wield and use guns too, which is what takes the film further.

There is this typically Bihari police inspector as depicted in films; the eternally paan-chewing and spitting type, shirt buttons always open and shirt is never tucked in. The kind who has ‘corrupt‘ written all over him. Here he is represented by Vijay Raaz. He is a bit rare since he is on good terms with Mumbai‘s biggest don, Sharat Saxena. Vijay Raaz decides to channel the ‘talent‘ of the gang of four.

The don Saxena‘s efforts to eliminate media baron, Govind Namdeo, have come to naught. He is in search of some outside shooters who can hit the target and run away from Mumbai so that there are no comebacks to him. Raaz calls over the four lads and extols the virtues of doing big hits and moving beyond petty crime. Coming from a policeman, they are easily convinced and accept the supari to kill Govind Namdeo on behalf of Saxena. But for some reason, Saxena wants to kill Namdeo‘s daughter, Hazel Crowney and not him anymore.

Ravi Kishan‘s is the supposed to be the last word for the other three. Moments after the four land in Mumbai, the conflict of interest happens: Kishan eyes a pretty girl and is bitten by love bug. She is Namdeo‘s daughter, Hazel Crowney. The corrupt ACP who is also a Saxena‘s man has planted them as bodyguards to protect the girl and they are to use the proximity to kill her. But by now, Ravi Kishan is deeply in love with Crowney. She reciprocates and instead of shooting her, Kishan ends up saving her from an attack.

This is where the film loses whatever little sense it made as its director, Vatsalya (who also stars), tries to grab some important scenes and events in the story. He decides to go sideline the other three and project own self as the new acting talent in town. He turns himself into a lunatic, kills his partners, rapes the girl and also kills her. He unashamedly tries the steal the limelight and ends up doing neither: impress as an actor or as director.

Jeena Hai Toh Thok Daal is a very poorly written script with equally bad dialogue that alternates between banal to cuss words. It is amateurish in all respects, which is not surprising since the director has no experience of the medium and he lets himself loose on the film as both maker as well as an actor.

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