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Bareilly Ki Barfi

Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Ayushmann Khurrana, Kriti Sanon, Pankaj Tripathi, Seema Pahwa
Direction: Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari
Rating: **

Suparna Sharma
Director Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s Bareilly Ki Barfi tells the story of a mildly unconventional girl trapped in a film that’s way too conventional, primarily because it’s petrified of the box-office.
This is the only plausible explanation for the copout by Ms Tiwari, who made Nil Battey Sannata last year — an honest, uncompromising film — on a tight budget. This time around she has big producers backing her. Hence, the aversion to risk.
Bareilly Ki Barfi has the look, feel and demeanour of a fun film. And in several small bits, it is. But at its core it’s drab.
The problem is that after setting its course, and getting us interested in it, Bareilly Ki Barfi doesn’t go where it said it would.
Baba Box-Office ki jai!
In Bareilly lives the slightly peculiar Mishra family — daughter Bitti (Kriti Sanon), Papa Narottam (Pankaj Tripathi) and mother Sushila (Seema Pahwa).
The three have their own unique equation, dynamics at home. They practice egalitarian democracy, mostly.
Everything changes, of course, when it comes to Sushila finding a suitable boy for Bitti.
So when Papa’s mental wellbeing and the day’s business dealings are dependent on his first, crucial dump, which in turn is dependent on a cigarette, Bitti is asked to lend hers. And when she’s run out of them, she’s sent out to score one.
But day and night, Mummy Sushila, concerned and anxious about getting Bitti married, keeps haranguing everyone and no one in particular.
We gather from the one boy we meet, that the naujawans who come to check out Bitti are really not worthy of her. And yet they reject her, repeatedly.
Bitti, you see, smokes, drinks, break dances and, in her mother’s words, roams around the town at night like a “chudail”. She also, when asked by a prospective groom whether she’s a virgin, answers in the negative.
After one more rejection, followed by her mother’s outburst, we spend a few minutes with Bitti and her Papa. Teary-eyed, Bitti is talking about the strange, hypocritical expectations from a prospective biwi-bahu. Papa stands with her emotionally, morally. His caring hand on her head, he stares ahead and says, but the samaj we live in is what it is…
Bitti, who works in the bijli daftar’s complaint department, decides to leave home. Waiting at the station, she picks up the cheapest novel from Munna’s shop and, after finishing it maze le-le-kar on the train, returns home to search for the author.
The book, Bareilly ki Barfi, tells the story of Bubbly and is written by Pritam Vidrohi.
Bitti’s search for Vidrohi first takes her to Munna and from there to the book’s printer, Chirag Dubey (Ayushmann Khurrana).
The movie doesn’t offer us much information about its main hook — the book that Bitti is so mesmerised by.
Though we know who the author is, we don’t get a peak into his mind except that his Bubbly too smokes, drinks and can break dance.
The film, which initially posed and pretended as if it’s going to set Bitti free — to change something about her life, or those around her — now embarks on a tedhi, tirchi love story in search of a suitable mate. A man who won’t object to Bitti’s “bad habits”, but will accept her for who she is.
For this it pulls out Rajkummar Rao to play a challenging role that requires constant switching — one second he’s a rowdy, paan-chewing, obnoxious creep, the next a meek sari salesman.
Nothing much happens and Bitti’s character doesn’t grow nor does it go anywhere. It, in fact, regresses. Bitti is now only interested in finding acceptance and love from a man! The final frontier, it seems, of all mildly different girls.
Bareilly Ki Barfi is set up very well. It opens with Javed Akhtar’s crackling narration that showers life and sparkle even on the Mishras’ old home. The location, characters and their chatter initially are nicely infused with UP small-town flavour.
The film credits three writers for its story and screenplay, yet Bitti’s character is rather straight and square. It’s also a bit contradictory.
Packed in the back story of Pritam Vidrohi and Chirag is the story of a man who is insanely selfish and abusive towards another, rather sweet, simple man.
And yet Bitti, the girl who, we are told, would reject a loud lout, gushes and embraces the  mean man in the end.
Though the movie is short and its dialogue fast and snide, yet there are long dry spells — scenes where nothing much happens.
In many of these scenes, the film relies on its excellent actors — Rajkumar Rao, Pankaj Tripathi and Seema Pahwa — to liven things up. But it gives them very little to play with.
Yet, they try. Tripathi’s Bitti-ke-Papa character is precious. He talks to the slow-moving fan at night while Sushila snores by his side.
Tripathi invests his character with warmth, love and acceptance as only he can.
Next to him is the forever fabulous Seema Pahwa. Her brisk Mummyji-talk drives the film.
Munna the shopkeeper, played by Rohit Chauhan, carries the Bareilly flavour throughout and is very good. Ayushmann has been better.
Kirti Shannon is very confident, lovely looking and moves and talks as if she were made-to-order for Bollywood.
She’s got all the chops. All she needs now are some lessons in internalising characters with their backstories.
Bareilly Ki Barfi’s sound department is one up on the writing and direction. They have made the film sound better than it actually is.
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