After getting a lot of flak for focusing only on the uber rich and the NRIs, Bollywood is changing its act and is basing the movies in small towns. This year itself, we had quite a few movies that fit that category like Hindi Medium, Badrinath Ki Dulhania, Behen Hogi Teri, and last week's Toilet: Ek Prem Katha. Now we have Bareilly Ki Barfi that is a romcom set in a rustic environment. The movie is directed by Ashwini Iyer Tiwari, and stars Ayushmann Khurrana, Kriti Sanon and Rajkummar Rao in the lead. Here's our review…
What's it about
Bitti (Kriti Sanon) is a rebellious tomboy in Bareilly who is the apple of her father's (Pankaj Tripathi) eye, while her mother (Seema Pahwa) is worried about getting her married. By chance, she comes across this novel called Bareilly Ki Barfi, which she believes is written on her personality. Fascinated, she begins to search for the author, Pritam Vidrohi. However, the book was really written by a small press owner, Chirag Dubey (Ayushmann Khurrana), who had written it about his ex. He had used his meek friend's (Rajkummar Rao) name as the author, to avoid problems with his ex's family, as a result of which, the real Pritam runs away to Lucknow. When Bitti and Chirag get to meet, he falls for her, but she wants to know more about Pritam. He lets her write letters to 'Pritam' while he replies to them. The wheels get really going when Bitti insists on meeting Pritam, and Chirag decides to make him undesirable.
First of all, I am glad that Bollywood has finally realised that there are real people living out of the glitzy metropolitans, who do not live in huge mansions but simple brick houses. When it comes to movies set in small towns, Bareilly ki Barfi is a delightful addition to the genre. Director Ashwini Iyer Tiwari, who made the lovely Nil Battery Sannata, has based this movie on the book, Ingredients of Love by Nicholas Barreau. With Bareill Ki Barfi she proves that Nil Battey Sannata was not a flash in the pan and she is definitely a director to watch out for. Like her earlier movie, even Bareilly ki Barfi is filled with some sweet and humourous moments that will leave you smiling, especially in the first half. One of the biggest reasons for the same is the dialogues, written by Dangal director Nitesh Tiwari (also Ashwini's husband) along with Shreyas Jain and Rajat Noria. They are crisp, funny and often offer opportunities to laugh out loud.
The lead characters are written in such a way that they feel normal and relatable, but not easily likable. Like for example, Chirag may be a forlorn lover, but he is also a bully to Pritam. Some of the scenes involving Ayushmann and Rajkummar will bring the house down. The decision to make Javed Akhtar do the narration works well for the movie. The cinematography by Gavemic U Ary captures the essence of Bareilly as well delectable wafts of the sweets that Bitti's father makes. The background score is apt.
But it is the performances in the movie that left me exhilarated, for which the casting director has to be praised for bringing such a good set of actors together. Ayushmann Khurrana is fine as the protagonist who is a bully and an earnest lover at the same time. He was at his best in the climax, in a scene that will remind you of Kal Ho Na Ho. But he is often side-stepped by that fantastic talent called Rajkummar Rao. We had seen his comic flair earlier this year in Behen Hogi Teri, and he continues his fine form here too. He effectively portrays both meek as well the rowdy side of the character. The supporting cast is awesome, with Pankaj Tripathi and Seema Pahwa perfectly cast as Bitti's parents. I really wanted to see more scenes in the movie, featuring just these two. Rahul Choudhary, who plays Chirag's friend, is a good find and a talent to watch out for.
It is quite unfortunate that after such a really good buildup, Bareilly ki Barfi loses steam in the second half, especially the concluding portions. The second half needed a tighter writing as well as better editing. Certain character behaviours don't make much sense here, and forced melodrama make things even worse. You begin to wonder if the makers are not getting a grip over the proceedings. The way the movie is tied up towards the end will definitely remind you of Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar's Mujhse Shàadi Karogi. Thankfully, the humour helps us sail through these portions.
Another big flaw is that Bitti's character, who is the crux of the movie, is very under-written. Fluctuating accent aside, Kriti Sanon's role suffers from the same problem that Diana Penty's did in last year's Happy Bhag Jayegi - she is often overshadowed by her male co-stars. Which is unfortunate, since last week's Toilet Ek Prem Katha had such a strong female lead in Bhumi Pednekar.
Barring Nazm Nazm, none of the songs manage to make an impact.
What to do
Bareilly ki Barfi boasts of a delightful first half, but a weak second half. But some really funny writing and terrific performances by Rajkummar Rao, Ayushmann Khurrana, along with a brilliant supporting cast, add sweetness to the narrative. While it may not get high marks in its screenplay, it definitely is one of the better rom-coms of the year.
3.0 out of 5
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