Avijit Das Patnaik


Turkish Poster of Barfi

“So cute naaa”.

“That’s soo chweeeet”.

These were some of the affectionate exclamations coming from the row behind. Not just twenty somethings, even the aged ladies had extreme niceties for the leading character, who happens to be deaf and mute. The crest achieved, when Ranbir climbs atop a tower and turns the town clock back, in an attempt to woo his dream lady.

“Oh Nooooooo”….entire hall squirmed … and longed for Illena to accept Ranbir, as I presume the entire Barfi praising fraternity did. Everyone coming out of the multiplex corridors had nothing but words of sympathy, sweetness for the movie.

Barfi isn’t for the small town or single screen audiences; it isn’t an inspirational story ala “Iqbal”, nor a laugh riot like “Vicky Donor”. Since it’s meant for the multiplex audience, the only possible message the audience can pick is on the “power and strength of love” and “to increase sensibilities and compassion towards the unfortunate”.

My doubt is whether the same gadget slinging, titanium card swiping, pop corn munching multiplex audience would have had the same sense of affection had they encountered Barfi in real life. Would they even consider falling in love with him or even being friends?

Am no angel, and I would not have married anyone with such disablities. This I say, despite spending two years of my life madly (and unsuccessfully) trying to convince a lady to accept me; a lady with severe physical disability. My engineering college mates may still remember me for that. But that was that.

A Barfi doesn’t exist in your city, in those lavish malls or in the ice cream parlours. Even if he does, you are unlikely to find him huggable. He won’t either have designer blazers, Monte Carlo sweaters, well styled stubble, or the fair, chiselled looks of the Kapoor boy. The challenged son of a driver would likely be doing odd jobs, abused and exploited around, or selling pens/key-rings on local trains in case he managed to survive the need for begging.

If Barfi was made with Irfan Khan, Manoj Bajpai, Nawazuddin Siddique or Vijay Raaz as the lead and pit a Sahana Goswami or Prachi Desai opposite him, it would have sunk without a trace. Critics would have spoken more about its flaws than go ga-ga the way they, social media and entire film fraternity have gone about so far now.

Nor does Jhilmil exist in your city, in those lavish malls or in the ice cream parlours. A girl so attractive and lost, in the streets of Kolkata or in the fields of neighbouring villages, would likely be caught around, raped around and thrown around, multiple times. She would be no more than a sex object of an sick society, till she has nothing left, but rag-picking for survival. Anjan Das’s national award winning Bengali movie “Faltu” addresses one such character,more realistically.

A mentally unstable village lady, reduced to begging and living under a secluded tree, was raped by so many men, that when she delivers a boy, every villager thinks it’s possibly his son. ‘Faltu’ is treated well by everyone, for over two decades, till he falls in love. And subsequently gets to know whereabouts of his origin, which forces him to conclude that he cannot marry any girl in that village, as she could be his sister.

So Jhilmil, Barfi don’t exist in reality, and hence they should be treated no more than how you view a Batman, Spiderman or a Madagascar movie – unreal; but you wish they existed like that!

They are unlikely to. Not in the countries for whom this movie has been made. The audience will continue to rave but unlikely to get any human message from it.

The movie has a major flawed line when Priyanka Chopra’s childhood years are described as embarrassment by her parents “Un dino” (those days). Wrong. If a child were to be born autistic, most parents will treat him/her till the point they have hope and then subsequently despatch to a “muskaan” or a special school.

In my lifetime, am just aware of one couple in this earth who went against odds, against society, against family and raised an absolute challenged boy for twenty two years. Even close relatives called him “vegetable” but for the “Gandbhirs”, they treated him as if he was God’s reincarnation. They were my landlord for a year in Mumbai, everyday my respect growing for them.

Just imagine, if you were unfortunate enough to be born with a severe disability, what was the probability your parents would have kept you in the house, taken you to the lavish malls, the ice-cream parlours for even two years?

Or if you are unfortunate enough to become severely disabled in your old age, what is the probability your kids will keep you in the house, take you to the lavish malls, the ice-cream parlours for two years?

Or if your aged parent or even your spouse becomes severely disabled in future, what is the probability you will keep them in your house, take them to the lavish malls, the ice-cream parlours for two years?

It needed two top draw stars, Ranbir Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra and a new face to get everyone going. The aforementioned two are one of the few performers around who don’t mind experimenting with challenging roles, outside their staple image and comfort zone. They were brilliant and put heart into characters, they strongly believed in. Anurag Basu and the crew deserve applause for that.

The audience don’t. They don’t deserve a Barfi.

 If your sensibilities and compassion towards the unfortunate hasn’t increased after this movie, if you believe the strength and power of love comes after materialistic gains, you probably didn’t deserve Barfi too.