Ranbir Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra sells their latest film as a light-hearted romance and not a tragic tale
Their enthusiasm for life was contagious. While Bollywood heartthrob Ranbir Kapoor talked up the virtues of living life king-size, actress Priyanka Chopra advised us to just let the small things slide.
Though it’s tough to take their tips seriously, especially since actors are known for their excessive antics, the memo given to them was clear: Sell Barfi! as a light-hearted romance and not a tragic tale.
“We don’t want the audience to have a wrong notion about Barfi!. We play characters with disabilities in this film, but we focus on the happy times in their lives,” said Kapoor at a recent press junket in Dubai. He plays Murphy, a hearing-impaired man, who is a certified charmer. He falls in love with an autistic Jhilmil, played by Chopra.
“There is no social message here. It’s not a film which is trying to make people feel bad or sympathetic towards us. We are celebrating our lives and we want the viewers to celebrate those happy emotions with us,” said Kapoor. In case the message got lost in translation, Chopra pitched in her bit.
“When you see a person who is differently-abled in films, there’s a tendency to evoke sympathy. This film doesn’t do that. Our disabilities are just incidental,” said Chopra. This could be the reason why the stars didn’t visit any autism or special needs centres in Dubai while promoting the romantic comedy. Many Bollywood stars visiting Dubai do such visits.
Tradition dictates that stars plan their film promotional activities by sticking to theme of their projects (Think Vidya Balan strapping on a fake belly and hunting for her missing husband at a Mumbai railway station, just like the story from her hit Kahaani).
cast visits Dubai “It doesn’t need crutches such as those [autism centre visits] to promote the film. We want to promote it as a fun film for all kinds of people,” said Chopra.
Her Rockstar hero takes it a step further by claiming that Barfi! is better than the Italian Roberto Benigni’s classic romance-in-the-face-of-tragedy Life Is Beautiful. But he qualified his comment with: “We are not trying to make Barfi!, the Bollywood’s answer to Life Is Beautiful. Nor are we trying to re-do anything. All we know is that we have made an honest film. This film has taught me to enjoy every moment in my life,” said Kapoor.
Directed by Anurag Basu, the tale about Murphy’s search for the love of his life is set in the 1970s in Darjeeling, a hill station in India. The duo say Basu’s vision and the strength of his narrative were the main reasons for taking up the project.
“After a film like Rockstar, Barfi! was like a breath of fresh air. Anurag has this child-like quality about him. And he has this amazing clarity about all his characters. While playing Murphy, I was definitely inspired by the likes of Raj Kapoor, Charlie Chaplin, Roberto Benigni, Mr Bean and Buster Keaton,” said Kapoor.
He was not alone in surrendering to his director’s vision. Chopra says that she may have been clueless about playing Jhilmin during the first week, but found her bearings as soon as she stopped fretting about it.
“Somewhere along the way, I felt I was over-thinking it. But, as soon as I stopped deliberating about it, all fell into place. After that, it was a breeze playing Jhilmil,” said Chopra. Her role called for no make-up and no designer wardrobe, a move that she joyously embraced.
Tonight also holds a special significance for Chopra. She will debut her first single, In My City, featuring will.i.am of The Black Eye Peas, before the much-anticipated Thursday Night NFL Kick-off game between the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers.
“It’s a big night for me. It’s my first single and I will have Barfi! in the theatres in Dubai the same night. It’s a double delight,” said Chopra. She may have been tight-lipped about her music debut, but Kapoor let us in on a secret.
“Yes, I have heard it. Siddharth [Roy Kapur, UTV CEO] and I blackmailed her into doing so. I don’t want to give anything away but you guys are in for something that will blow your mind away,” said Kapoor. His nod of approval may be inconsequential to music critics, but with the know-how that Chopra has gathered from acting in Barfi! she may be able to tide over pretty much anything.
“After acting in Barfi!, I have realised that we have so much in our life but we tend to crib about small things that you don’t have. This film will teach you: ‘Don’t worry, be Barfi!’. He has no parents, no home but he lives his life with such abandon. It taught me to do the same,” said Chopra.