Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Bareilly Ki Barfi—The Ingredients of Love

As the title of Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari's Bareilly Ki Barfi suggests, the film is a short and a sweet love story. It is inspired by The Ingredients of Love by Nicolas Barreau. Set in Bareilly, the film is about Bitti (Kriti Sanon). She thinks she has a lot of 'flaws' in her, which is why she is not able to find a groom. She runs away from her house, and serendipitously reads a book titled Bareilly Ki Barfi whose lead character is exactly like her. The book is ostensibly written by Pritam Vidrohi (Rajkummar Rao); however, he was forced to be the writer by the book's actual writer and publisher Chirag Dubey (Ayushmann Khurrana). Bitti wants to meet Pritam as she thinks he will understand her, and she reaches out to Chirag to find more about him. What follows is a nice and a humorous tale that has shades of Lawrence D'Souza's Saajan and Kunal Kohli's Mujhse Dosti Karoge!
One of the themes in Bareilly Ki Barfi is that people have flaws and one of the essential ingredients of love is to accept people with their flaws. Bitti keeps reiterating that she has many faults in her. In her first letter to Pritam, she writes that everyone sees faults in her, but he saw a positive aspect in those faults. When Bitti decides to get engaged to Pritam, she again explains to Chirag that Pritam likes her the way she is, and accepts her with all her flaws. Bitti will not change herself to get married to someone. In another related moment, Pritam's mother keeps on pestering him that he should take care of himself better. He rhetorically questions her that perhaps he has all the faults, which makes one conjecture that his mousy underconfident personality could be a consequence of his mother's constant complaints. The film never delves deeper into this aspect of him, but this underscores the concept of flaws that Bitti also mentioned. It is fascinating to watch how effortlessly Pritam becomes this new person Badass Babua who is the polar opposite of him. Perhaps, he always had this side to him, but he never got a chance to flourish. We see even Chirag trying to become who he is really not. He is also hiding some aspect of him. He behaves a little differently with everyone. There is a point in the film when Chirag schemes for Pritam's downfall and his friend Munna jokes with him that he is 'neech' (villain). Later, Munna takes back his words and he tells him he is not 'neech' (villain) after Chirag is not able to say the truth to Bitti as he cannot break her heart. There is a shift in the film as to who the hero is and who the villain is. In fact, at some other point, the voice-over tells us, "Ek chaalbaaz nahi, dusra rangbaaz nahi, par love ki leela dekhiye, ek chaal bana raha hai, aur dusra chaal jama raha hai." One is not a schemer; the other is not a bully. But strange are the ways of love that one is hatching schemes, and the other is taking on an attitude. It is this whole aspect of being true to yourself, not becoming someone else, and accepting people with flaws, is what the film tries to portray and reward its characters. 
The film has some really hilarious scenes, but also has some lovely little moments. When it is Chirag's birthday, Bitti takes him to her family shop whose board reads Lovela Sweets, as the ee ki matra fell off in the rain. She takes him inside and puts a candle on one of the sweets, making it a little birthday cake, like Sid did for Aisha in Wake Up Sid where he made a bread-jam cake on her birthday. The name Chirag means a lamp of light. When Chirag is reading his letter in the end, he stands in front of numerous little lamps. At some point, while he is reading, the electricity goes off, and the only light present is the one from the lamps. It is a beautiful touch where the man whose name is Chirag is standing in front of little chirags, proposing to his lover who is compared to a sweet. It is also quite befitting that a man who opposes the hero's love is named Pritam Vidrohi—Lover Rebel
In Vikas Bahl's Queen, Rani was the docile daughter whose father was the proprietor of a sweet shop. She was naïve and ingenuous. She was studying home science. At one stage, her fiancé Vijay says that she is as sweet as sugar syrup. He refuses to marry Rani days before the wedding, and she is heartbroken. Bitti from Bareilly Ki Barfi is also the daughter of a sweet-shop owner. Bitti is also a barfi. However, Bitti, even though belonging to a small town, is nothing like Rani, from the supposedly modern Delhi. She smokes cigarettes, drinks alcohol, eats non-vegetarian food, does break dance, and watches English movies. She does not listen to her parents. She is independent and works in the customer care department of the electricity board. She will go on to meet someone who is like Surinder Sahni from Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, who also used to work in the electricity department. Punjab Power, lighting up your life. Surinder Sahni this side ji. But the most interesting aspect of Bitti was her relationship with her father. Narrotam Mishra raised Bitti with the freedom to do whatever she wants. Bitti is called as the son of her father. There is a lovely moment in the film when he comes and offers her a cigarette. She declines, but there is an image in which both of them are actually smoking. When was the last time we saw a scene where a normal (and not some villainous) father and a daughter shared a smoke together? Then, Bitti tells him that being a girl is a disaster. He then tells her that he does not believe in these norms but eventually, they have to live in the same society. As Bitti told he is a Libran, perhaps, that is why he is able to maintain this balance. At some other point, there is a Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge reference in the film, where Bitti compares herself to Simran and tells her friend Rama that Raj should know how her Simran looks like when she is sending her picture to Pritam. Taking it a little further, one can visualize the strict relationship that Simran had with her Bauji is in complete contrast with the less formal, almost friendly relationship that Bitti had with her father. Simran had to literally beg her father to let her go so that she can marry Raj. In Bareilly Ki Barfi, Bitti has already decided she will marry Chirag; however, just before she puts the ring on him, she still asks for her father's permission. Of course, he will not object to it.
There are some other really laugh-out-loud moments in the film, such as the one where Pritam says, "Rangbaaz log dekhte hi nahi hai," when he is asked to behave like a bully. The setting, the location, and the dialogue seem authentic. Debit and credit card expected (sic). Aasteen ka anaconda. Rama tells Bitti that she has a boutique and not a shop. Performances are splendid by everyone, especially by Pankaj Tripathi, Seema Pahwa, and Rajkummar Rao. It is as if they have belonged to this small-town milieu since forever. However, at places, Kriti Sanon felt too sophisticated for the part of Bitti. And, as much as I love Ayushmann Khurrana (#BublaForever), he feels a tad too urbane as Chirag. I guess these are minor quibbles and it requires more thought on the importance of actors 'looking' the part. But I was happy that unlike Meri Pyaari Bindu, he gets his Bindu Bitti here because writers should also have a happy ending, sometimes. 

Songs used in the background
Titanic poster
Books in Movies
P.S.—At some point in the film, when they are in a boat, the boatman talks about Jawani Diwani and says it starred Hema Malini, Dharmendra and Vinod Khanna. After that, he starts singing the song Dreamgirl. Was it some kind of a joke as Jawani Diwani has no connection with the aforementioned three stars or the song?

P.P.S.—I have a personal connection with the city of Bareilly. My mother was born and raised in Bareilly. I have been there a few times when my grandmother and my mother's brother were alive. The last time I went there was in 2004 and I still remember I watched Koi...Mil Gaya on cable TV there. Bareilly is largely known for its surma (kohl). Mera Saaya's Jhoomka Gira Re made Bareilly famous in films. Let's see how much impact Bareilly Ki Barfi has on the popularity of the city.

Other Reading:
1. Of Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, and TamashaLink

Dialogue of the Day:
"Pyaar kiya hai Munna, kurbaani toh deni padegi."
—Chirag, Bareilly Ki Barfi

1 comment:

  1. i want to add one more point. aayushman's bike headlight is always on still in day.is it metaphor of his name 'Chirag'?!


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