Director: Ashwini Iyer Tiwari
Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Rajkummar Rao, Kriti Sanon
Like the barfi in the title, Bareilly Ki Barfi is sweet, enjoyable and low on nutrition. There is little here that will stay with you but while it lasts, you’ll have a smile on your face. And that’s exactly what this amiable film is designed to do.
Bareilly Ki Barfi is a lovely acting showcase. The first to admire is Rajkummar Rao as Pritam Vidrohi, a mild-mannered sari salesman who is forced to play-act a badass babua. That terrific descriptor comes from a song in the film – I want it on a T-shirt. Pritam’s friend and tormentor Chirag Dubey instructs him, “Pet se awaaz nikalo aur Bachchan ban jao.” Rajkummar’s conversion into these two distinct personalities is brilliant and seamless. In fact, Pritam’s act is so good that Bitti, the girl in this comical love triangle, starts to find him attractive. When Chirag admonishes him for this, Pritam looks mournful and says, "Hum toh character pakad ke chal rahe the."
You will also admire the understated charm of Ayushmann Khurrana – playing the small town ordinary Joe with an extraordinary capacity for love. So when Chirag’s girlfriend unceremoniously dumps him, he spends the next five years pining for her. Or you can turn your gaze on the wondrous Pankaj Tripathi, playing the father of a defiant daughter whom he loves unconditionally. Mr. Mishra is the family’s peacekeeper. Bitti’s mother might look at her and say – harkate dekho, laundon wali but Mr. Mishra is firmly on her side. He understands perfectly when she says – ladki hona disaster hai. There is also the consistently good Seema Pahwa playing the hapless mom and Rohit Chaudhary, who is Chirag’s best friend Munna.
Apart from the performances, much of the magic in Bareilly Ki Barfi comes from the dialogue by Nitesh Tiwari and Shreyas Jain. The comedy is light and effortless. Watch out for the asides – like a mithai ki dukan named Lavla sweets instead of Lovely sweets because in the rain, the E ki matra fell off.
The weak link is the strained story which relies too heavily on a voice over by Javed Akhtar. The narrative, based on a French novel called Ingredients of Love, is predicable and convoluted. The scenario feels inspired from another French icon – it’s watered down Cyrano de Bergerac – which is, two men, one girl and the power of words. Bitti reads a novel that she believes Pritam has written but actually Chirag has written it. So now Pritam must put her off by being an obnoxious lout. After much confusion and contortions, Bitti find her true love.
The character of Bitti is also a soft spot. The small town firebrand or pataka is in imminent danger of becoming a Bollywood cliché. This year alone, we met her in Badrinath Ki Dulhania, Behen Hogi Teri and Toilet: Ek Prem Katha. This is a girl who determinedly breaks the blinkered rules of her narrow surroundings – so Bitti smokes, swigs alcohol straight from the bottle, eats non-veg, breakdances on her terrace and watches pirated English films.
But these seem like a collection of traits rather than a flesh and blood character. Kriti Sanon is lovely looking but she isn’t very persuasive as the small town rebel. I kept getting distracted by her perfectly tousled hair. Her edges aren’t frayed enough to fit into this milieu in the way that the other actors do. Her performance is sincere but I kept feeling like she had sauntered in from a more airbrushed reality.
Still Bareilly Ki Barfi has enough flavour to keep you going. Director Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari keeps it frothy and light. I exited the theatre hoping that she’ll give Pritam Vidrohi his own film.