True, the story takes some liberties with logic. True, we're not sure whether Priyanka Chopra's character is deaf, autistic or both. True, Pritam's ubiquitous band is annoying. And yet, when Barfi! ends, I can only think of Rumi's saying, "Silence is the language of God. All else is poor translation."
So infectious is the delightful innocence and easy optimism of the characters that we can't fault any of their decisions. We're so deeply involved in their lives that when one of them must choose between the realisation of her love, and the happiness of the man she loves, we want her to be selfish, to fight for the bond she gave up all other ties for.
The film bounces between the present day, 1972 and 1978, travelling through three interwoven lives – Shruti (Ileana D'Cruz), Barfi (Ranbir Kapoor) and Jhillmill (Priyanka Chopra). A criminal plot ushers in the suspense, complicating the narrative and pushing it beyond the traditional love triangle.
Even when the film takes depressing turns, the characters never demand our pity. Instead, they give us cause to laugh. We meet Barfi as the deaf-mute village prankster and the bane of Inspector Dutta's (Saurabh Shukla's) existence. Dutta angrily blames him for shrinking his 52" waist to 42". We learn how Barfi got his name through a quirky song, the lyrics of which include the line, "Radio on hua, Amma off hui".
The music nudges us into a world whose allure is its silence, a world where we’re enchanted by masked dancers and fireflies glowing inside soap bubbles.
His relationships with Shruti and Jhillmill make us wonder about the things love can make us do – and the things it can't. When you meet The One, would you trust him or her enough not to run away when you think a pole is about to fall on you? Would you trust fate enough to run away from a life that promises comfort and contentment?
The film's magic is in its treatment of its tender moments – a reversed 'B' that's faithfully copied, an indulgent feint of surprise, a lonely girl's longing to fit in at a party her parents throw, an ingeniously stolen cigarette, a beautifully-taken shot of a portrait being painted, a signboard whose irony hits home.
Though Pritam leaves his mark with a brazen copy of the 1951 Tamil hit Aiyya Saami for the opening bars of Aashiyaan, the music nudges us into a world whose allure is its silence, a world where we're enchanted by masked dancers and fireflies glowing inside soap bubbles.
The Verdict: A charming storyline and superlative performances make the few contrived elements in this film forgivable.
We, the one per cent
Director: Nicholas Jarecki
Starring: Richard Gere, Tim Roth, Susan Sarandon, Brit Marling, Laetitia Casta
For the first time in the history of this career – you know, the one where I'm paid to watch movies – I Googled the name of a film before heading to the cinema. Because I had a feeling Arbitrage wasn't the name of Richard Gere's character, though the posters could have one fooled. Apparently, it involves making money from the price difference between two or more international markets. It sounds legal; it definitely seems logical.
If we're lucky, Arbitrage will show even the most business-linguistically challenged of us will figure out why most of America's p***ed off with Wall Street. We will also follow what most of the characters are saying most of the time. True, the actors enjoy spitting out jargon like it was the only vocabulary they grew up with. But the story transcends this, and manages to keep us hooked.
Writer-director Nicholas Jarecki crafts an exceptional script, where strong characters dictate the story, so that the events and their follow-up seem natural. Circumstances and the primal urge to save one's own skin, at all costs, eliminate the need for the crutch of coincidence.
It gives me special pleasure to watch Richard Gere in a dastardly role. Perhaps I grew up in a generation that sighed and swooned over his Pretty Woman line, "Not all men hit." Some aspects of Edward Lewis do carry over to Richard Miller, though – he's a troubled billionaire, with a weakness for the wrong kind of woman. And he has a secret – but this isn't a crisis of conscience that a hooker with insight can soothe. Here, he's truly an awful man, with no thought for anyone but himself.
And no one would have been any the wiser if it weren't for a nosy daughter and a chatty cop. An accident brings Detective Michael Bryer into Miller's life. You never let the cops in when you have something to hide – especially when the something involves hundreds of millions of dollars. The inspired casting of Tim Roth in the role of the detective ensures that our attention is riveted, but our loyalties are never divided.
We are always on Miller's side. His baseness of character finds foil in his nobility of countenance. And this appears to work on the premise that there is nothing more attractive than a haughty billionaire – except a handsome haughty billionaire. And though we're not sure he'll worm his way out of the mess, we're sure we want him to. Even if it means the ruin of all the good people we sympathise with, but strangely, don't relate to.
The Verdict: Arbitrage is a gripping thriller of the calibre of Match Point.