Bollywood is still grasping, fighting for a piece of the Western film pie and this enchanting tale should garnish its fair share; if only audiences did not shun this genre that has captivated Eastern viewers for decades.
“Barfi” is a deaf/mute who listens and hears only the sound of his pure spirit, eliminating the cacophony of noisy nothingness; his love of life is tangible, free from the shackles of predetermined behavior; his priorities so finely tuned he generates an aura of joyful spirituality. Ranbir Kapoor’s performance is mesmerizing; vestiges of Raj Kapoor, Charlie Chaplin emanate in his portrayal; wordlessly he conveys his bountiful love, depth of empathy; instincts, like a priceless Stradivarius violin, flawlessly refined; he is life, light.
Barfi falls madly, passionately in love with “Shruti” ( gorgeous, heartfelt performance by Ileana D’Cruz), whose upcoming quasi “arranged” marriage presents a huge roadblock in the nurturing of their relationship. Shruti is conveying the story through a series of flashbacks. The film is rich in questioning stifling traditions; when does the heart take precedence over the intellect? Does a past love ever die, or fade away?
The brilliant core of the film revolves around “Jhilmil” an autistic young woman whose fragile essence is traumatized as she is shuffled from one home to another. Priyanka Chopra gives an iconic performance, worthy of the highest accolades; without sensationalism she encapsulates the typical symptoms of the autistic individual: fear of “touch”, lack of eye contact, uncontrollable, nervous, frenetic movement; living in an enigmatic world that allows no entrance, no trust.
Director Anurag Basu has produced a charismatic gem; “Barfi” at times silly, tearful, but always wise and warm; a less than typical, more realistic conclusion; a genuine, happy fantasy that lingers long after the final credits; happiness, what more can anyone ask, or need from a film?