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Bareilly Ki Barfi: Bitti’s dilemma plays on a familiar film trope — the deceptive love triangle

In a particularly hilarious moment in Bareilly Ki Barfi (among all its hilarious moments), Bitti’s mother asks her friend Chirag Dubey to be “Hanuman” and set her daughter up with Pritam Vidrohi, since their jodi is that of Ram-Sita. Chirag (played by Ayushmann Khurrana) is the actual Ram here and the friend he’s bullied into pretending to be the writer Pritam Vidrohi (Rajkummar Rao in his most comical role yet), was supposed to be his Hanuman.

Still from Bareilly Ki Barfi

This confusion — Girl thinks she is in love with charmer Boy B but it’s actually behind-the-scenes Boy A — is the underlying theme of this film. It’s a variation of the Cyrano de Bergerac/Hitch theme that has been played out and perfected in lots of Indian movies. From Saajan where Madhuri Dixit thinks she is in love with the dashing Salman Khan for his poetry, but the poems have been written by the poor orphan with a disability, Sanjay Dutt. Or the ‘90s Tamil movie Duet where an effervescent Meenakshi Seshadri falls in love with who she thinks is Ramesh Arvind, his poems and his beautiful saxophone playing when it’s actually the fat and awkward Prabhu who is the talented musician keeping her up at night. In Minnale, Madhavan pretends to be Reema Sen’s fiancée (who’s actually played by Abbas) and successfully lands the girl. Sapney (Minsaara Kanavu) had a thread of this theme where Aravind Swamy hires Prabhu Dheva to make Kajol fall in love with him. Or even Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi which takes it to #peakdrama where a dull SRK is married to Anushka Sharma and adopts a secret, glamorous identity to woo his own wife.

In Bareilly Ki Barfi, Bitti (Kriti Sanon) searches for the writer Pritam Vidrohi thinking he’s the one who’s written a novel that describes her to a T. A restless young woman, she thinks the man who’s authored the book and who really gets her, will fix her life. Except it’s her friend Chirag (Ayushmann Khurana) who’s actually written the book, is in love with her and gets her.

Rebellious Bitti, who asks random men on motorbikes to drop her off at her destination, who shares her cigarettes with her daddy, who break dances at whim, who runs away from home and comes back, who tells a prospective groom that no, she isn’t a virgin, is at odds with the small town she lives in. And when she comes across a book (also titled Bareilly Ki Barfi) where the protagonist resembles her so much, she’s determined to track him down and see where it goes. (Sidenote: I’ve been collecting unusual professions writers have given heroines in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam films, Bitti’s is by far my favourite; prosaic, yet not: She works at the electricity board.)

Chirag doesn’t tell her the truth (for if he did, would we have the movie?) and instead says he knows the writer. Bitti, persuades a smitten Chirag to find Pritam who agrees, because he wants to eliminate the competition. Chirag and his friend go to Lucknow to meet and convince the mild-mannered, stammering, shy and hesitant sari salesman Pritam to turn into a paan chewing tharki. Pritam goes overboard with his transformation and brings fear into Chirag’s heart, especially when Bitti and family fall for him. This forcing Boy A to act as Boy B is a theme seen in Saajan as well.

Ayushmann Khurrana, Rajkummar Rao and Kriti Sanon in Bareilly Ki Barfi

In Saajan, after Sanjay Dutt’s character Aman’s poems get published (under a pseudonym) and he becomes famous, Madhuri Dixit’s Pooja corresponds with him. But Aman’s brother Akash (Salman Khan), falls in love with Pooja. And because Aman was a disabled orphan who was adopted by Akash’s parents, and because he thinks a woman would never love someone with a disability, he helps Akash pose as Sagar to win Pooja. It reminds me of a line Chirag spouts while drunk: “Pyar kiya hai, qurbani toh deni padegi“. The same qurbani is shown by Aman. And in the end, Pooja has to choose between the person she fell in love with and the poet she was entranced by.

Duet’s Guna and Siva — two brothers who run an orchestra — too fall in love with the same girl, Anjali, their choreographer-neighbour who cannot resist the saxophone music playing out of their house. Guna, played by Prabhu, is fat and awkward and doesn’t have the courage to confess his love for her, while the younger Siva makes a beeline for her and impresses her. The twist? Anjali thinks it’s Siva who is a skilled saxophone player, when it’s actually Guna. But here, there’s no qurbani, there’s no meetha barfi. Siva simply uses his brother’s insecurity to his advantage until Anjali comes to know of the truth — many arguments, some convincing and a fight late, Siva dies. Guna and Anjali unite.

What is so irresistible about the shell games of these movies? It’s partly because the heroine’s conflict becomes our own, and we’re suddenly taking sides. In Saajan, Sapney and Duet (and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, if dancer SRK was played by someone else), the heroines picked the underdogs, the nice boys, the ones who usually get left behind. In Minnale too Madhavan’s character is the underdog, but he doesn’t let us sympathise with him one minute, because the very next, he’s impersonating his loved one’s fiancée, especially one who happened to be his ‘enemy’ in college. Here, the heroine doesn’t have any real choosing to do; her dilemma is why should she pick him even after he lied to her. Each of the men on opposite sides usually represent a particular life, a way of fulfilling bigger dreams, especially when marriage = life as in the case of Bitti of Bareilly, who has been turned down  by many, many men because of her carefree but somewhat claustrophobic existence.

The pleasures of the Hitch version of the love triangle are manifold — there’s the tension of the unfolding drama even if you do know who will end up with whom, there’s that rush you get when you’re rooting for the loser and then there’s the unabashed mounting competition.

As I said before, the two men on opposite sides represent particularly different lives and Bitti picks Chirag, the one who didn’t quite sweep her off her feet, but one who offers her companionship, one she can share her small-town idiosyncrasies with. But what would’ve happened if she picked the other? On the face of it, the other is not an attractive choice: He’s a gullible, affable timid soul who’s been harangued by his mother all his life, resulting in the hopeless case that he is. Here’s a guy who has been bullied by Chirag tirelessly, whether it’s posing as him for the author photograph or getting doused in water for making a mistake. It’s hard to imagine Bitti with Pritam but boy Pritam does look like he needed a true vidrohi (rebel) like Bitti in his life to save him. Luckily for Bitti, she doesn’t share my soft spot for the real underdog in this story. She gets the last laugh and the last barfi.

Bareilly Ki Barfi: Ayushmann, Rajkummar are perfect foils for Kriti Sanon’s career-best act

Bareilly Ki Barfi starts with what has been its USP as seen in the trailer and songs so far – small town charm.

bkb social

The worn out yet cozy bylanes of Bareilly, a small town in Uttar Pradesh is introduced by the articulate voice of Javed Akhtar. His narrative takes you to the Mishra family – the patriarch (Pankaj Tripathi), matriarch (Seema Pahwa) and their daughter Bitti (Kriti Sanon), whom they have raised ‘as a son’.

She smokes, break dances, asserts her will on her neighbours and spreads out her legs while sitting on a bike.

While she has never been treated like a small town girl by her family, she gets disgusted by the misogyny that comes with every prospective groom, while she’s looking for prospective men to be married to. Dejected, she finds refuge in a book titled Bareilly Ki Barfi that she wantonly picks from a book stall.

The book that she grabs is ghost written by Chirag Dubey (Ayushmann Khurrana). It seems like he takes off right where he left in his last film Meri Pyaari Bindu. He writes a book in memory of his unrequited love Babli. However, Bitti finds the character of Babli a carbon copy of herself and approaches the publisher of the book to get in touch with the author. The publisher turns out to be Khurrana who gets smitten by Bitti as he sees shades of Babli in her.

The hurdle however is the picture of the author on the book, which is that of Pritam (Rajkummar Rao), a gullible friend of Chirag who he had convinced to masquerade as the author in order to hide his love for Babli, as she’s now happily married.

While Chirag serves as the postman of Bitti and delivers her letters to the author, he realises that Bitti has actually fallen for the author, and not the publisher.

Chirag convinces Pritam to do him a favour yet again and sets up his meeting with Bitti. But he trains Pritam to project himself as an embodiment of everything that Bitti hates – all her misogynistic prospective grooms rolled into one.

Cue love triangle.

Kriti Sanon delivers arguably her best performance of the career. She fits the bill as the girl next door and gets everything right from the accent to the styling. While her small town girl act is pale in comparison to say, a Swara Bhaskar from Nil Battey Sannata but her author-backed role gives her ample scope to perform.

Ayushmann is endearing as the unrequited lover; his smitten expressions clearly project the butterflies in his stomach which makes one wonder why Bitti is not able to decode his boundless love for her.

Rajkummar Rao nails both his acts – the reserved saree-seller and the brash gali ka gunda, who he pretends to be to imitate Ayushmann. His arrogant avatar is overplayed in order to draw contrast from his restrained avatar, which he excels in organically.

Special mention to Pankaj Tripathi and Seema Pahwa who are brilliant with their comic chemistry. They have some of the best scenes in the film that are sure to leave everyone in splits. Pankaj Tripathi is as restrained as his last dark character in Gurgaon but still manages to make you laugh because of the lines that Nitesh Tiwari writes for him.

The story so far is predicated given the trailer of the film spelt it all. How it shapes up now will determine the graph of the film.

The rest of the story revolves around this typical love triangle. The edges are sharpened by Nitesh Tiwari’s crisp writing and his wife Ashwini Iyer Tiwari’s tight direction.

Just like he did in Dangal, Nitesh gets all the local nuances right; Ashwini brings back the honesty and warmth of Nil Battey Sannata along with the street smartness and competitiveness she brought fore so aptly in that film. Also, the highlight of the music is ‘Sweety Tera Drama’ which is both irresistible and situational.

The editing, particularly the tug of war between Ayushmann and Rajkummar, is as sharp-edged as the writing.

Overall, Bareilly Ki Barfi is a character-driven as all the characters are pivotal to the plot and backed by substantial writing. The three lead actors drive most of the narrative – Ayushmann’s endearing expressions, Kriti’s livewire presence and Rajkummar’s unpredictable dialogue delivery provide the perfect ingrediendts for a sweet rom com that has its share of masala.

That masala surprisingly adds to the overall taste. While the film lacks the heartfelt moments of Nil Battey Sannata, it never gets pungent. It’s like a typical desi dessert that serves your sweet tooth but may result in adding a few pounds that you would certainly not mind.

Bareilly Ki Barfi review: Ayushmann, Kriti and Rajkummar bring small town charm to life

Bareilly Ki Barfi starts with what has been its USP as seen in the trailer and songs so far – small town charm.

bkb social

The worn out yet cozy bylanes of Bareilly, a small town in Uttar Pradesh is introduced by the articulate voice of Javed Akhtar. His narrative takes you to the Mishra family – the patriarch (Pankaj Tripathi), matriarch (Seema Pahwa) and their daughter Bitti (Kriti Sanon), whom they have raised ‘as a son’.

She smokes, break dances, asserts her will on her neighbours and spreads out her legs while sitting on a bike.

While she has never been treated like a small town girl by he family, she gets disgusted by the misogyny that comes with every prospective groom, while is looking for prospective men to be married to. Dejected, she finds refuge in a book titled Bareilly Ki Barfi that she wantonly picks from a book stall.

The book that she grabs is ghost written by Chirag Dubey (Ayushmann Khurrana). It seems like he takes off right where he left in his last film Meri Pyaari Bindu. He writes a book in memory of his unrequited love Babli. However, Bitti finds the character of Babli a carbon copy of herself and approaches the publisher of the book to get in touch with the author. The publisher turns out to be Khurrana who gets smitten by Bitti as he sees shades of Babli in her.

The hurdle however is the picture of the author on the book, which is that of Pritam (Rajkummar Rao), a gullible friend of Chirag who he had convinced to masquerade as the author in order to hide his love for Babli, as she’s now happily married.

While Chirag serves as the postman of Bitti and delivers her letters to the author, he realises that Bitti has actually fallen for the author, and not the publisher.

Chirag convinces Pritam to do him a favour yet again and sets up his meeting with Bitti. But he trains Pritam to project himself as an embodiment of everything that Bitti hates – all her misogynistic prospective grooms rolled into one.

Cue love triangle.

Kriti Sanon delivers arguably her best performance of the career. She fits the bill as the girl next door and gets everything right from the accent to the styling. While her small town girl act is pale in comparison to say, a Swara Bhaskar from Nil Battey Sannata but her author-backed role gives her ample scope to perform.

Ayushmann is endearing as the unrequited lover; his smitten expressions clearly project the butterflies in his stomach which makes one wonder why Bitti is not able to decode his boundless love for her.

Rajkummar Rao nails both his acts – the reserved saree-seller and the brash gali ka gunda, who he pretends to be to imitate Ayushmann. His arrogant avatar is overplayed in order to draw contrast from his restrained avatar, which he excels in organically

Special mention to Pankaj Tripathi and Seema Pahwa who are brilliant with their comic chemistry. They have some of the best scenes in the film that are sure to leave everyone in splits. Pankaj Tripathi is as restrained as his last dark character in Gurgaon but still manages to make you laugh because of the lines that Nitesh Tiwari writes for him.

The story so far is predicated given the trailer of the film spelt it all. How it shapes up now will determine the graph of the film.

The rest of the story revolves around this typical love triangle. The edges are sharpened by Nitesh Tiwari’s crisp writing and his wife Ashwini Iyer Tiwari’s tight direction.

Just like he did in Dangal, Nitesh gets all the local nuances right; Ashwini brings back the honesty and warmth of Nil Battey Sannata along with the street smartness and competitiveness she brought fore so aptly in that film. Also, the highlight of the music is ‘Sweety Tera Drama’ which is both irresistible and situational.

The editing, particularly the tug of war between Ayushmann and Rajkummar is as sharp-edged as the writing.

Overall, Bareilly Ki Barfi is a character-driven as all the characters are pivotal to the plot and backed by substantial writing. The three lead actors drive most of the narrative – Ayushmann’s endearing expressions, Kriti’s livewire presence and Rajkummar’s unpredictable dialogue delivery provide the perfect ingrediendts for a sweet rom com that has its share of masala.

That masala surprisingly adds to the overall taste. While the film lacks the heartfelt moments of Nil Battey Sannata, it never gets pungent. It’s like a typical desi dessert that serves your sweet tooth but may result in adding a few pounds that you would certainly not mind.

Idea for Bareilly Ki Barfi came immediately after Nil Battey Sannata, reveals Ashwini Iyer Tiwari

The attire and persona of Ashwini Iyer Tiwari gives out an air of an artistic presence.

Sophomore director Ashwini Iyer Tiwari, whose debut film Nil Battey Sannata was a whiff of fresh air, is back again with Bareilly Ki Barfi and this time too her story is rooted in a small town.

The fascination for India’s small towns for this commercial arts graduate from Mumbai’s Sophia Polytechnic is apparent. “It also happens because of my experience in advertising. When you are working in advertising, you have to do a lot of research and a lot of time is spent with planners. All those experiences with the passage of time get engraved in your mind,” she says.

Her interest in the study of personality and interests of an individual compelled Ashwini to start her own page on Facebook titled No Makeup Story. On her page, the director makes effort to read and write her observations about random people from various strata of society. “The entire aspect of my page is to know who these people are,” says Ashwini.

Born and brought up in the metropolis of Mumbai, Ashwini harbors the mindset of a small town girl. At the slightest opportunity, she runs away to the serene surroundings of Chembur where her parents live.  It’s evident that her mind is still trapped in an era when the Internet was not the buzzword. “I would say I am trapped in the whole idea of simplicity and in the idea of slow living,” she says.

It was sheer luck that the day she finished her debut film was also the day she got the germ for Bareilly Ki Barfi. “I was returning back to Mumbai after finishing the last schedule of Nil Battey Sannata. I was at the Delhi airport and picked up The Ingredients of Love by French author Nicolas Barreau. I started reading the book when I boarded the flight and there was a paragraph that really appealed to me, which later on became the core idea of Bareilly Ki Barfi.”

But when she reached home that day and sounded off the idea to her filmmaker husband Nitesh Tiwari, the conversation was not a pleasant one, recalls Ashwini.

“Nitesh said to me that you have just finished a film and have just come back home, that too with an idea for your next film. He told me that I was crazy,” she laughs. The hook line for her next film was so strongly now etched in the director’s mind that that when the couple set off for their annual vacation the next day, the book too found a place in her handbag. “I took the book along for my holiday and Nitesh had no option but to read that book. I told him to see what can be done with the plot line. We later on discussed about the possible plot and eventually figured out how to go about it.”

Ashwini believes that her filmmaking sensibility is rooted in the films of Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Basu Chatterjee and Sai Paranjape.  “I love the films of Sai and Hrishi Da. Their filmmaking sensibility stemmed from their own simplicity. The characters, which we encounter in their films, inspire me a lot,” she informs.

Becoming another Sai Paranjape is one ambition that Ashwini often thinks about and thus relentlessly works for it. “It’s my wish that in next few years people say this country has found a new Sai Paranjapem” she says.

After the critical acclaim that Nil Battey Sannata gathered last year, and the subsequent mega success of Dangal, one term which the duo might get to hear a lot in the coming days would be that of the ‘power couple’ of the film industry. When asked about the same, Ashwini cringes in the beginning but goes ahead to give a plausible explanation. “People might say so because we are two individuals and we both happen to be film directors. Something similar happened when we were part of the advertising fraternity too. We both managed awards at Cannes in the same year. While he got his for a radio ad, I got mine for a print campaign. We are only doing our respective work and trying to put in our best foot forward.”

Ashwini’s two films have featured only actors and not stars. “I have never thought about the fact that I work with actors, while Nitesh works only with stars. I come from a very different school of thought. It’s the actors who have to become characters and not vice versa. Tomorrow if I get a script and if I want Aamir Khan for that film, I will definitely approach him. The access factor has now become better,” says Ashwini, laughing.