Barfi!


Of rainy afternoons, chai, fireflies & soap bubbles…

Pic source: Wikipedia

He loves her… she loves him too but is confused. She is practical, he is not. She cannot help but calculate; he doesn’t know that math… His love is in abundance and can only be cherished by someone who loves without thinking. Love, heartbreak, loss and a chance to win love back… That’s writer-director, Anurag Basu’s Barfi for you – it is beautiful, it is feel-good and thankfully devoid of any ‘screaming for sympathy’ antics despite differently-abled protagonists.

Barfi is a heart-warming film about a deaf and mute young man called Murphy aka Barfi, played by Ranbir Kapoor. His life may be without any sound but is not dark; he lives with his father who is a chauffeur in Darjeeling. He is mischievous and is aware of his good looks and charm, which he uses to impress the new girl in town – Shruti (Ileana D’Cruz). Then there is Jhilmil (Priyanka Chopra), the autistic grand-child of a rich businessman; she loves origami, dislikes getting her footwear soiled and is friends with their chauffeur’s son.

It is an unlikely love triangle that makes you sad one minute and smile the next. Ranbir once again delivers a brilliant performance, which exudes Chaplinesque charm and sincerity that we are used to seeing in him. I cannot think of another Indian actor who could have played Barfi and played better than him. Priyanka maintains restraint and communicates effectively what goes in Jhilmil’s mind through her expressions. Like Barfi, she also has little or no dialogue but you feel all that she does… kudos to the director for treating autism sensitively and not going over the top. This is also Priyanka’s best performance till date, right next to her character, Sweety in Kaminey. Ileana looks great in the second half and has some brilliant scenes… her dilemma is portrayed beautifully by the director, accompanied by a lovely track, ‘Phir Le Aaya  Dil…’ at one point in the film. She seems awkward in the first half of the film and with Ranbir shining bright, she looks a bit dull; but all that goes away as the film progresses.

Basu creates a special mood with the film that takes you back in time when life was simpler, childhood meant chasing fireflies and playing with soap bubbles. Darjeeling looks breathtakingly beautiful through the lens of cinematographer, Ravi Varman and production designer, Rajat Poddar adds the details to re-create the delightful 70s. Like its setting, the film moves at a leisurely pace, which is perfect; however a little bit of pruning in the second half could have helped (editing – Akiv Ali). Music by Pritam is first rate and his choice of singers is brilliant – from the fabulous versions of ‘Phir Le Aaya Dil’ by Arijit Singh and Rekha Bhardwaj to Papon’sKyon’ and ‘Ala Barfi’ by Mohit Chauhan and another version by Swanand Kirkire (also the lyricist). The soundtrack not only goes wonderfully with the film but is a perfect accompaniment to spend a rain drenched afternoon, reading a book and sipping tea.

If I have to criticize Barfi, then I will blame the length a bit and the criss-cross narrative that complicates things unnecessarily. But all that can be easily ignored as this Barfi has just about right sweetness… So, watch the film and get hold of the music!

Rockstar

The Magic of Kapoor, Rahman & Chauhan

Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar features three rockstars – the leading actor, Ranbir Kapoor in his best performance till date; A R Rahman with a brilliant soundtrack and Mohit Chauhan, whose vocals infuse magic in Rahman’s score and Kapoor’s performance. The other thing that works and does not work in equal parts is the film’s screenplay by Ali. The film has a good premise and the first half is engaging; however, the second half drags and you want it to get over quickly.

Writer-director, Imtiaz Ali knows how to handle romance well and like his earlier films (Socha Na Tha, Jab We Met, Love Aaj Kal),

Rockstar also features confused lovers who separate and then re-discover love for each other. However, this film is as much about music, as it is a love story. The film’s most memorable and impactful parts are about Ranbir’s musical journey… from a young aspiring singer who is not sure what his music is lacking to the heart-broken, frustrated and bitter rockstar who does not like himself. Coming back to the love story; while there is Ali’s tried & tested formula and Ranbir’s passionate portrayal of someone madly in love; the romance in the film does not work, mainly because of the leading lady, Nargis Fakhri. She looks beautiful but her complete inability to act does not allow you as a viewer to feel for her character. She fails to bring alive the exuberance of a free-spirited college girl as well as the tragedy of a woman in a doomed romance.

Ranbir Kapoor as Janardhan Jakhar, a young Jat boy from Delhi is charming and endearing. His mispronunciation of English words and the Haryanvi accent highlight the character’s innocence and simplicity. As an actor Ranbir soars as he makes an effortless transition from Janardhan to Jordan – a rising musician to a rebellious star. He brings in a lot of passion and sincerity in his performance, which becomes the film’s biggest strength. Special mention for the film’s stylist, Aki Narula who has done a brilliant job in building the character; he presents Janardhan in cheap denims and hand-knit sweaters, and Jordan in a disheveled, eclectic look.

Ranbir, Shammi Kapoor; http://www.rockstarthefilm.com

The film is full of memorable moments and most of them are linked to its beautiful soundtrack (lyrics: Irshad Kamil). True to the film’s title, A R Rahman uses a lot of guitar in the score but the real magic comes alive with the use of sufi, folk and classical forms. The instrumental, ‘Dichotomy of Fame’ shot with Ranbir on guitar and the late Shammi Kapoor on shehnai is pure cinematic and musical genius (Balesh on shehnai & Kabuli on guitar). ‘Sadda Haq’ by Mohit Chauhan has already reached the levels of a youth anthem; ‘Nadaan Parinde’ with Rahman and Chauhan’s vocals grows on you and so does ‘Katiya Karun’ (Harshdeep Kaur & Sapna Awasthi). However, the big music moment of Rockstar that does not leave your mind long after the film is over, is the sufi track, ‘Kun Faya Kun’ with Rahman, Chauhan and Javed Ali’s voice and a brilliantly shot video at Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah in Delhi. With nine out of the fourteen tracks featuring his vocals, it is undoubtedly Chauhan’s big album; he brings alive the pain and the agony that matches Kapoor’s sincere performance brilliantly.

While Kapoor, Rahman and Chauhan took the film to the next level; the film’s tedious length, sloppy second half and Ms. Fakhri’s acting pulled it down. Rockstar is a film that could have been great cinema but is still a great piece of art in many departments. It is a film to watch and to watch it in a theatre to experience the music in Dolby digital sound and no less…

My rating for the film: *** ½ Three and a half on five

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

Philosophy, fun and travel porn… 

Pic: Excel Ent; Source: Wikipedia

Zoya Akhtar (director) gave us Luck By Chance, a beautiful and sensitive film that sadly not many watched… I guess she realized that her off-beat sensibilities need better commercial sheen to appeal to a wider audience in India. Her next film, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (ZNMD) is not a regular potboiler but is packaged like one (smarter though) with beautiful people who travel first class, buy Birkins and drive through exotic locations in vintage cars.

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is a film about friendship and discovering what you want from life… after all you only get to live once. It is a story about three friends on a road trip that changes their lives; it is a simple plot but the way it is presented is what makes all the difference (screenplay: Zoya and Reema Kagti).  The film has a light mood, many fun moments and you are constantly reminded that there’s one life to live. All this is packaged beautifully in an extended Spain Tourism show-reel! No, I am not complaining. It is almost like travel porn where beautiful images just keep coming on the screen and you start dreaming about visiting the place (cinematography: Carlos Catalan); from bright yellow corals in blue waters to wild horses running along your car; art galleries, charming cafés to the world’s biggest food fight, La Tomatina.

At about 135 minutes, the film is a bit too long and a little bit of brutal editing would have helped (editing: Anand Subaya); but at the same time the film’s relaxed pace lets you enjoy the moments and the visuals. Dialogues by Farhan Akhtar are witty and bring a smile to your face; a lot of the scenes remind you of your conversations with your friends. That’s where ZNMD wins, the film doesn’t try too hard to make you laugh or cry; it just involves you in what’s happening.

The actors have all done a fine job with Kalki and Katrina emerging as surprise packages. They fit the characters perfectly; Kalki of a SOBO girl who loves her Chanels and Hermés and is possessive of her fiancé; and Katrina of a half-Indian fashion student cum diving instructor. Both the girls appear quite natural and you don’t mind their accents as well. Amongst the boys, Farhan walks away with the coolest lines, except the poetry that wasn’t really required; Abhay is cool and Hrithik is alright. I say alright, because he’s done a fine job except a few scenes where you wonder if the brief to him was to over-act (look out for a scene involving a video-call with a Japanese client). Spanish actress, Adriana Cabrol has a small and likeable role.

Music by Shankar, Ehsaan & Loy grows on you (lyrics: Javed Akhtar); while ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’, ‘Ik Junoon’ and ‘Senorita’ songs have become extremely popular, ‘Khaabon Ke Parindey’ is a beautiful track that stays with you (vocals: Alyssa Mendonsa and Mohit Chauhan). The only funny piece in the otherwise likeable background score is a little instrumental piece from ‘Saare Jahan Se Accha Hindustaan Hamara’ that plays right before the lead actors go for sky-diving.

Overall, ZNMD is an enjoyable film if you don’t get irritated with the whole lifestyle-of-the-rich-and-famous presentation. It has an interesting theme and of course the USP, the breathtakingly beautiful, Spain. 

Nos vemos en España amigos.

My rating: *** ½ Three and a half on five

Pic: Excel Entertainment