'Barfi' to put it bluntly is a bad film because director Anurag basu forgets to tell a story. He tries to cash in on the the histrionics of Priyanka Chopra, Ranbir Kapoor and Ileana D'Cruz in that order. Priyanka Chopra gives a telling performance of an autistic person which restricts her movements but she turns it into a great advantage. As Jhilmil Chatterjee she expresses a lot in the minimalist manner. It needed a skilled actress and also someone who is able to convey the depths of feeling. She is able to do it with a beguiling simplicity.
Ranbir Kapoor as a deaf-and-dumb person gives a great performance by behaving like a normal person in his antics, swagger, anger and anguish. His Chaplinesque/Raj Kapoorish mannerisms are enacted convincingly and there is no false note in it. Ranbir Kapoor needs to watch himself. It is tempting to fall into the Raj Kapoor manner which seems to come to him so naturally.His performance as Barfi is quite impressive. The arrogant director and producers have the temerity to show a leading and successful Ileana D'Cruz as a debutante. The titles say, "Introducing Ileana D'Cruz". They should know that she is a seasoned and the most captivating romantic actress of the Indian screen. D'Cruz's role was relatively easy, the underplayed and understated Shruti Sengupta. What mars the good performances of Priyanka Chopra, Ranbir Kapoor and Ileana D'Cruz is the last scene where they are shown in their grey years which lacks credibility.
What then is wrong with the film? The direction is directionless and the screenplay is scattered, unveiling a convoluted plot which runs helter-skelter and the director and the cameraman are busy framing lovely scenes of Kolkata and Darjeeling, which gives the feel of the place. But these picture-postcard scenes do not make sense because the story gets lost in irrelevant detail and the plot is a little too thick to be intelligible. It turns out to be a tedious melancholic emotional extravaganza which tries hard to be a sunny tale as well.
It looks like that the director and the screenplay writers were overwhelmed by the story-idea and they were forever trying to embellish it with exquisite emotional set-pieces. The set-pieces are nice but they fade away because there is no story to hold them all together.
People who are more familiar with the Western movies will be able to point out the plagiarisation aspect. The plagiarism issue would not have mattered much if the film held as did Basu's earlier one "Metro -- A Life in the City"-- which was shown to be a frame-by-frame copy of "The Apartment". But "Metro.."managed to hold its own because there was a story to tell thought it was a many-stranded narrative. In "Barfi" the nucleus of the story. Each episode stands on its own and the wit of the kind shown by actor Saurabh Shukla is overblown.
It was a stupid decision to nominate "Barfi " to Oscars in the same way that "Lagaan"was a mediocre film to have been nominated to the Oscars. Of course, Oscars never recognise genuine cinema so it is but fitting to send these stupid films there.