Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
Even before you see a single frame of Anurag Basu’s “Barfi!” you will get a sense of the movie, thanks to a quirky song which calls on you to switch off “both your mobiles and kids”. It also promises that the film will give you no “gyaan” (expressing opinion) and that it will tell you about “saccha pyaar” (true love).
You could either be charmed by this unusual beginning or be put off by it, as I was, especially because it feels like overstating the tone of the movie and making a judgment for you about its content. But you might soon forget that and a lot of other things. The very first scene, a Chaplinesque chase through narrow streets is shot expertly by Ravi Varman, and will give you a sense of the old-world charm that pervades the film.
Basu’s film is set in a fairy-tale world, where people seem to have all the time in the world to stop and stare. Basu certainly seems in no hurry to tell his tale, allowing Varman’s camera to meander through the gorgeous landscape of Darjeeling, taking his own time to set up his characters and their lives.
We meet Murphy (Ranbir Kapoor), a cheerful young man who dances, cycles and charms his way through the village with not a care in the world. That he is hearing and speech impaired is conveyed through a song, without much melodrama. He lives with his father, a chauffer.