10 reasons that make ‘Bareilly Ki Barfi’ quirky, despite a very simple plot
Movies that have a very simple, predictable yet touching and refreshing storyline are not an everyday affair in Bollywood.
In the age of jet-setting globalization and the über cosmopolitan life of metros, revelry in exotic locales in Europe, shaking a leg after quaffing a couple of vodka or tequila shots in a swanky pub playing jazz or metal, movies that still vividly capture the rustic charm of small town India — with its provincial attitudes, seemingly uncompromising conservatism, high hopes, soaring ambitions, yearnings, desires and rebellious instinct, clinging to traditionalism, inevitable conflict between tradition and modernity, and generational schism between the young and the elderly — have a sense of sublime realism and déjà vu in spite of the fictionalised, and at times even hilarious and fantastical narratives.
Ashwini Iyer Tiwari directed ‘Bareilly ki Barfi’ is a quirky romantic comedy that revolves around the towns of UP, particularly the sleepy town Bareilly(Yes, the same Bareilly whose name features in the old, black-and-white Hindi song ‘Jhumka gira re Bareli ke Bazaar me). It is, however, worth noting that no jhumka(earring) falls in this movie and neither it is about the lip smacking sweetmeats made in Bareilly.
The movie is an adaptation of a French novel ‘The Ingredients of Love’ and is a love triangle featuring Ayushmann Khurrana, Kriti Sanon and Rajkumar Rao.
Kriti plays the role of Bitti Tripathi, a Bareilly girl who is fiercely independent, progressive, takes the occasional fag and swig and doesn’t take nonsense from anyone in her neighborhood. Bitti’s father is a shopkeeper who has raised her daughter “like a son” and has given her many liberties as per a small town do what she likes. But, on the contrary, Bitti’s mother is an old-fashioned, conservative woman( Now ain’t that the quintessential Maa of 1980s Bollywood) who is eager to get her hitched. Many suitors approach for Bitti’s marriage, but she is frustrated with their narrow-minded, hypocritical and patriarchal mindset and declines to tie the nuptial knot. Marriage was not on her cards, she was only meeting the prospective grooms on the insistence of her mother!
One day Bitti comes across a pulp novel titled ‘Bareilly ki Barfi’ – eponymous title of the film – which is written by Pritam Vidrohi(Rajkumar Rao), but actually it is ghostwritten by the publisher of the book Chirag(Ayushman Khurana), who convinces his friend Pritam to give his name as the author because the book is about a girl named Babli, who was Chirag’s beloved but is happily married to someone else now. Writing the novel was a catharsis for Chirag and the last thing he would have wanted was to embarrass the love of his life.
Upon reading the book, Bitti identifies with the central protagonist in the book – a composite character highly inspired from Babli – and feels that she is just like her( Sorry for the spoiler, but there is no ‘Sita Aur Gita’ or twin sisters separated at birth twist here).
Bitti falls in love with the eloquent writing skills of Vidrohi and decides to meet him. She approaches the publisher Chirag who introduces her to Pritam, the author whose photograph is on the book cover.
But things get complex when Chirag realizes that he has also fallen for Bitti and she is in love with the author, not the publisher of the book.
Then we have series of twists and turns, crests and troughs, hilarious scenes, comedy sequences and our own light-hearted ‘Tale of Two Cities’ ( okay, it might not be fair to equate it to the Charles Dickens classic) set in Bareilly, as the two friend turn into rivals to win the heart of Bareilly. One Romeo and the other ‘Shakespeare in Love’!
Here are 10 reasons that make the movie quirky, despite a very simple plot:
1) All the 3 leading actors did very well in their roles. The versatile Ayushman, gorgeous Kriti and character actor Rajkumar Rao.
2) The movie portrays the inner dilemmas, longings and myriad experiences of the 3 very well – a charming, freedom loving girl, a writer-cum-publisher who is still looking for his Babli, and a simpleton.
3) The movie depicts typical social mores of small town India and how free-spirited people do feel constrained at times in their social setups.
4) It is so far the best career performance of Kriti Sanon and she plays the role of the fun-loving, intelligent and enthusiastic Bitti with ease.
5) Although the love triangle is a tried and tested formula in Bollywood(I have lost count of the number of love triangles which have been a regular staple of Hindi cinema since the heydays of Vinod Khanna, Big B and Dharam Paaji), this movie has a distinct earthy appeal, minus the embellishments and too hackneyed plot.
6) The movie captures the life of small town India quite realistically, in all its forms and manifestations; the good, the bad and the ugly( As an addendum, also the quaint, regressive and modest!). While Bitti’s father is shown progressive enough but none of the guys who approach her for marriage have even a semblance of the same mindset.
7) The power of the written word, the emotions that it elicits in us, the vicarious connection we feel, striking resonance, the uncanny parallels with our own lives, and the powerful impact that it has on a person, is shown in the movie, as Kriti Sanon falls in love with the writer, without even seeing him, after she reads his novel.
8) Writing is often believed to be a deeply intimate experience and almost all fiction is inspired from deeply moving and shattering facets of someone’s life. For the character of Ayushman in the movie, it was exactly this!
9) The movie is laced with a dose of humor and some funny one-liners that keep it from sounding too preachy or a forlorn story of a depressed author. There is no attempt at sermonizing or assailing the conventional yet redundant norms, values etc. The movie sticks to the genre of romantic comedy without casual diving into other genres to make it a potpourri.
10) The seamless contrast in the acting of Rajkumar Rao, from a small town simpleton to a stylish rowdy wearing tawdry goggles and denims, shows that he gets into the skin of the character.