Barfi! perhaps has the most delightful start ever in Indian cinema. The Pikture Shuru song before the opening credits, requesting that “pikture mein mobile aur bachche dono off rakhna”, is the kind of genuine, heartfelt stuff that elicits smiles. The movie begins with the promise of a similarly whimsical touch (the “radio on hua, amma off hui” lyrics) as we peer into the life of deaf-mute Murphy a.k.a Barfi (Ranbir), his love for the ethereal Shruti (Ileana) and his autistic childhood pal Jhilmil (Priyanka). Barfi! is a silent love story that Basu tries to bring alive with some dazzling play of images and music. The effort is evident in every frame; there are unquestionably stunning moments. Like Murphy’s triple-date with Shruti and Jhilmil in a tram. Three people, three sets of feelings and expressions create music together.
However, the magic is not consistent. The flashback within flashback narrative gets way too clumsy and turgid, the thriller twist absolutely pointless. And piling one stunning sequence on another does not reach out and touch. The film appears much too crafted and self-consciously gorgeous, and feels eminently facile and plastic. It isn’t just the lifting of two memorable scenes from The Notebook. The sequence involving a statue made me revisit my Citylights DVD. What’s more, the emotions seem designed and dressed up in an alien coating. Barfi! tries way too hard to please. It’s like being wooed by a man who is extremely charming yet makes you wary of his intentions. He attracts, but does not inspire faith or trust. I was enchanted in parts, but largely exasperated.
The Chaplinesque portrayal by Ranbir does try to do something different. Life with a disability is tinged with a sense of joy, but happiness, such as it is, becomes a tiring compulsion. And some things stay the same. We still need the picturesqueness and gloss to make disability palateable. We need ‘their’ tales to give ‘us’ sugar-coated life lessons and Paulo Coelho-like feel-good philosophy. Perhaps, one day we will see the disabled in all their hues, in stories that truly are theirs, not churned out for our easy digestion. Till then there is always Sai Paranjape’s Sparsh. It may not have looked as good, but had a far larger heart.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
Indian cinema is is not ambiguous and leaves nothing to ponder. These are simple and beautiful fairy tales. Mainly for children and adults who refuse to grow up.
Wonder why TOI is promoting this movie. It has had four articles on it already.
I did know that people from Bengal were very important in Bollywood, and are, and were very relevant practically. Two Bengali directors have made Bengali movies relevant today. Bengali movies is about the Bengali looking at himself/herself on screen, and admiring how they are, because the movies are supposed to be about the Bengali. This is true as much for Rituparna Ghosh, as for Satyajit Ray, when they are associating with Bengali movies. It seems the two directors of Barfi and Shanghai, are thinking about Bollywood, and making movies as a result.
Overheard on the villanous social media...
The concept of a deaf and mute man whose life of fun and adventure soon starts revolving around a mentally challenged woman is just pure brilliance. Can't wait for another film based on Congress.
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