A young woman from a small town in Uttar Pradesh who smokes the occasional cigarette, drinks alcohol straight from the bottle and binges on Hollywood films on the sly sets the parameters for being progressive in the romantic comedy Bareilly Ki Barfi.
It’s certainly myopic to think that smoking or drinking alcohol equals progressive, but there’s a lot to enjoy in director Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s movie, if you can discard this reductive analogy.
It’s a romantic quadrangle that’s fuelled by a superlative performance by Rajkummar Rao as the classic underdog gone rogue.
Actor Ayushmann Khurrana and Kriti Sanon are his perfect foil, but they don’t hold a candle next to Rao’s impeccable comic timing and his hilarious two-sided personality switch.
We have Bittu (Sanon) from a typical middle-class household who’s frustrated by the patriarchy and sexism around her.
Her conservative mother (played superbly by Seema Bhargava) is India’s answer to Mrs Bennett, the literary figure from Pride and Prejudice, who wants to marry her daughter off to a decent gentleman.
The rotund matriarch is irked when her spirited daughter spurns off her suitors, one of whom wanted to know whether she was a virgin or not.
She feels misunderstood by society at large, but feels a kinship with novelist Pritam Vidrohi after stumbling upon his book. It was a failed literary debut, but it transforms Bittu’s life.
The comedy of errors and garbled identities is unleashed when she sets out to meet Vidrohi in person.
Khurrana plays the wily Chirag Dubey, the seemingly affable guy who promises to help Bitti meet her dream author.
PACKS A PUNCH
The first half is dominated by Khurrana and Sanon’s blossoming friendship, but it’s the second half that holds the real punch.
The arrival of Rao as the meek, submissive salesman who can turn on the swag and attitude sporadically is a treat to watch. His chemistry with Khurrana — who reveals his grey shades — is spot-on and the portions where they interact are the highlights of this romantic comedy.
Finally, here’s a Hindi film whose second half doesn’t disappoint and unravel into a total mess. While the first half is predictable and adheres closely to the trailer, the scenes after the interval are delightful. The climax where you guess which man walks away with the woman may be predictable, but there’s no taking away from Iyer Tiwari’s knack for telling a good story in an engaging manner.
Sanon, as the spunky small-towner, is pretty pleasing to the eye, but isn’t wholly convincing as she looks polished, urbane and worldly-wise in some of the scenes. But her earnestness makes up for those flaws.
But I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I was mulling over the possibility of what an actor like Kangna Ranaut could have done with such a role.
But that shouldn’t be a deal breaker. Both the men — Khurrana and Rao — are in good form as they spar vulgarly to get the woman of their dreams. What the woman, Bitti, wants is not fully explored, but that shouldn’t be a turn-off.
Iyer Tiwari has deftly painted the middle-class milieu of UP with the crutch of reliable actors such as Pankaj Tripathi, who plays Bitti’s liberal father.
While it takes time for Bareilly Ki Barfi to warm up to you, the crackling second half and the arrival of Rao signals for good things to come. Watch this if you are in the mood to unwind with a romantic comedy filled with an endearing set of flawed, but sweet individuals.
Don’t miss it!
Film: Bareilly Ki Barfi
Director: Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari
Stars: Rajkkumar Rao, Ayushmann Khurrana and Kriti Sanon
Running time: 135 mins
Stars: 3 out of 5