Last year, Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari made her debut with ‘Nil Battey Sannata’, a mother-daughter story that emphasised the importance of education and the right to realize one’s dream at any point in one’s life. A year later, her second film ‘Bareilly Ki Barfi’, a romantic comedy, arrives in the theatres. Though both the films are poles apart from each other as far as the genre and the storyline is concerned, they are set in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state. Also, both the films have been co-written by her husband Nitesh Tiwari, who is also credited with directing ‘Dangal’, the highest grossing Hindi language film till date.
Though Bitti Mishra (Kriti Sanon) lives in a small town called Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh, she is far from being the repressed, docile image one associates with girls/women living in small town India. Bitti is a fiercely independent girl who does not adhere to the puritanical norms set by the society.
When not working in the electricity department office, she watches English films, dances on the terrace of her house or indulges herself with a cigarette or a glass of alcoholic beverage. Because of her free-spirited and modern outlook, she gets rejected (or rejects) all the men who her parents try to fix her up with for marriage. One day, as Bitti arrives at the railway station, having decided to leave the town for good, she comes across a novel titled ‘Bareilly Ki Barfi’. The central protagonist of the novel is a girl whose nature is almost the same as Bitti. Bitti is pleased by the fact that in the book, the author portrays the girl in a good light. She is impressed by the author’s progressive outlook and decides to meet him. She comes back home and tries to gather some information about Pritam Vidrohi, the author but fails to garner an iota of data about him. She gets to meet the publisher Chirag Dubey (Ayushmann Khurrana) who promises to help her out in tracing the author.
In the last couple of years, there has been an influx of films based in Uttar Pradesh. ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’, Nil Battey Sannata’, ‘Badrinath Ki Dulhania’, ‘Jolly LLB 2’, ‘Toilet Ek Prem Katha’ – all these films were set in the heartland of the country and managed to impress the viewers by compelling stories where the milieu played a pivotal part. Just like ‘Badrinath Ki Dulhania’ and ‘Toilet Ek Prem Katha’ released earlier this year, ‘Bareilly Ki Barfi’ gets the cultural nuances right. The actors are given lines that people living in that specific region speak and they deliver them with the right accent, intonation and pronunciation. Writers Nitesh Tiwari and Shreyas Jain know the world they have set the story in and there is hardly any false note in the story that would suggest a lack of knowledge about the same. But, one does feel the city (Bareilly; the film has been shot in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh), which finds a mention in the title of the film also, could have been explored a little more as a narrative device. We get to see a glimpse of Bitti’s modest house, Chirag’s printing press and a few other places but the film seems boxed around certain specific places.
Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari seems to be completely in control of the screenplay in the first half. The film moves at a brisk pace, the dialogues are laced with humour and even when things get a little predictable, you feel engrossed in the film. The first half moves like a roller-coaster ride keeping you thoroughly engaged. The interval, too, happens at just the right time. As you see the second half unfold, the dialogues are as funny as the ones you got to hear in the first half. What is not consistent in the second half is the pace and the way the screenplay trudges along. Unlike the first half, where one did not feel disinterested in the proceedings for a second, there are certain points in the second half where you film the film drags and as a result, it seems a little longer than it should have. These bumps, however, serve as minor aberrations when you take into account the whole film which is very entertaining. The climax is not over-the-top and is in sync with the realistic temperament of the film. The culmination was satisfactory and left me a little moist-eyed too.
After pitching in a highly effective performance earlier this year in “Meri Pyaari Bindu”, Ayushmann shines in this film too. Though one feels he is getting typecast in certain kind if roles, the fact remains that he has been extremely consistent as a performer. Though Kriti Sanon played a small town girl in her debut film ‘Heropanti’, it was quite glamorous. She went on to play urbane characters in other films. This time, she gets to play a non-conformist girl from a small town wherein she proves she can portray a bevy of characters effectively. With this film, she rightfully proves that she is a combination of great on-screen presence and solid acting talent. Rajkummar Rao is one if the finest actors this industry has produced in the last couple of years and this film, like most of his work, serves as a testimony to that. The way he switches between being a naturally submissive character and pretending to be a rowdy fellow is amazing. Seema Pahwa and Pankaj Tripathi, as Bitti’s parents, get the rhythm of their characters just right. Rohit Chaudhary, as Chirag’s friend Munna and Swati Semwal (Maya) are good.
The idea of ‘Bareilly Ki Bareli’ came to Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari when she stumbled upon a book called ‘The Ingredients Of Love’ by Nicolas Barreau. She borrowed the basic plot from the book and with writers Nitesh Tiwari and Shreyas Jain developed it into a full-fledged screenplay. Neither have I read the book nor do I have any idea about its storyline. But, the kind of conflicts and issues the protagonists go through arise primarily because they are based in a particular milieu. With ‘Bareilly Ki Barfi’, the Hindi film industry gets another entertaining small-town love story to its name.