Banners: Junglee Pictures, BR Studios
Producers: Vineet Jain,
Renu Ravi Chopra
Director: Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari
Cast: Kriti Sanon, Ayushmann
Khurrana, Rajkummar Rao, Pankaj
Tripathi, Seema Bhargava
Writers: Nitesh Tiwari, Shreyas Jain
Music: Sameer Uddin
When a film boasts of names such as Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari (whose last venture was the beautiful heart-warming, slice-of-life film Nil Battey Sannata) and Nitesh Tiwari (the man behind Bollywood’s highest grossing film, Dangal), expectations naturally soar.
However, Bareilly Ki Barfi, a celluloid adaptation of Parisian writer Nicolas Barreau’s book, Ingredients of Love, isn’t as impressive as the writer and director’s previous works. That said, the small-town charm of the film coupled with some genuinely funny sequences make this barfi fairly delectable.
The film beautifully captures the essence of Bareilly; one could call it a small tribute to the delicacies of that city too. Right from chow mein to kachoris, samosas to imartis and laddoos, every second frame focuses on culinary treasures. It’s almost unfair to the audience, watching the film with a boring tub of popcorn.
The film opens to a voiceover by Javed Akhtar, who introduces us to the central characters.
There is Bitti Mishra (Kriti Sanon), a bindaas girl who can breakdance, smokes, drinks, likes to watch English movies and wanders about on the streets late at night. While her parents, played by Pankaj Tripathi and Seema Pahwa, have no qualms about their daughter’s habits, her attitude doesn’t make her the typical sarva gun sampoorna marriageable kudi, and thus she ends up being rejected by a string of suitors. Her parents, while unorthodox, are extremely concerned about the fact that they can’t seem to find her a groom. It gets so bad that her mother begins to ask every second boy she bumps into if he is single.
Surprisingly, the otherwise carefree and independent Bitti too feels dejected that she isn’t considered likeable enough. She decides to run away from home. At the railway station, while waiting for a train, she buys a book called Bareilly Ki Barfi, written by a certain Pritam Vidrohi, and is stunned to find that the heroine is exactly like her. She cancels her plan to run away and sets out on a quest to find the author, who she thinks of as the only person who can understand her.
It turns out the book was written by Chirag Dubey (Ayushman Khurrana) while in a drunken stupor and heartbroken over his ex-girlfriend. Chirag did not want to use his own name because then everyone in the small town would know who the heroine of the book was. So he and his friend Munna bully their simpleton friend, Pritam Vidrohi (Rajkummar Rao), into posing as the author of the book.
Bitti runs into Chirag and asks him to help her find the author of the book. Chirag falls for Bitti because she is so much like his ex-girl but doesn’t tell her that he is the author of the book.
Chirag once again bullies Pritam, turns him into the kind of guy that Bitti dislikes, and introduces them. But the plan backfires as Bitti starts falling for Pritam anyway.
Undoubtedly, the film is also hugely inspired by the ’90s Sanjay Dutt-Salman Khan-Madhuri Dixit blockbuster Saajan, but that’s okay. Being inspired by good content is a wise decision. Written by Nitesh Tiwari and directed by Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, the film starts out on a good note. It engages you, makes you laugh, captures the local nuances, but soon falls into the predictability trap. The biggest failing is in the characterisation of two of its central characters, Bitti and Chirag.
While Chirag’s astute character lacks energy, Kriti Sanon looks way too urban to pass of as a small-town girl. Furthermore, while the film on one hand shows her as a strong independent woman, in the very next scene it shows her troubled by the fact that she isn’t considered marriage material. It doesn’t make sense. The cinematography by Gavemic U Ary is brilliant. The music is another asset of the film.
Bareilly Ki Barfi has a strong first half, especially the scene between Kriti and the parents and certain scenes between Khurrana and Sanon, but the writing takes a backseat in the second half and is heavily dependent on Rao. Thankfully, Rao lifts the average writing whenever he’s onscreen.
Performance-wise, the film belongs to Rajkummar Rao, who despite coming in towards the second half effortlessly steals the show with his amazing coy-to-macho transformation. You wait to see what he’ll do next. Ayushmann Khurrana, who was last seen in a similar role in Meri Pyaari Bindu, tries his best but ends up either overacting or outright hamming in many places.
Kriti Sanon as the livewire Bitti puts her best foot forward but has miles to go before she can carry a film as its central character. She and Ayushmann simply cannot match up to the acting skills of Rajkummar Rao. Had there been two solid actors in their place, the result would definitely have been much better. Seema Pahwa and Pankaj Tripathi are powerful character actors and are fantastic in their parts; they are a delight to watch. The rest of the cast supports well.
Verdict: The film does have some really sweet moments and this Barfi can be relished, but there’s not enough to keep the film at the safety mark at ticket counters. Losing.