Anurag Basu talks to Screen about Barfi!, India’s official entry for consideration in the Academy Awards’ Best Foreign Language Film category.
If Hollywood is looking for a real-life inspirational story, then they could do little wrong with a biopic of Indian multihyphenate Anurag Basu [pictured right with Ranbir Kapoor].
Having overcome cancer, his latest film Barfi! - produced by UTV Motion Pictures - became one of the year’s biggest films in India at INR Rs 126 CR ($23.2m) net and is India’s official entry for consideration in the Academy Awards’ Best Foreign Language Film category.
For Basu, Barfi! is a story that has been in his mind for a long time. “It [Barfi!] was something I had written and something that my mind kept going back to,” Basu notes. “After I finished my last film [Kites], something pulled me back to the story and I went back to writing it and it excited me.”
Namely a romance between the titular character (Ranbir Kapoor), who is deaf and mute, and two girls (Priyanka Chopra and Ileana D’Cruz, in her first Hindi role), one of whom is autistic, the partially-silent Barfi! allowed Basu to homage the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.
“When I was going through my cancer treatment, it was films like this that made me happy and kept me alive,” reflects Basu. “It was my homage to comedy and physical comedy, and how they really made people smile on screen.”
And despite the large portions of the film without dialogue, there were relatively few problems during production. “There were moments of insecurity – is the story working? is it working without dialogue? – but the entire cast and crew were all very sure of what we were doing,” explains Basu. “It made me tell a story differently so it was challenging like that, but there was never a time when I was really frustrated and didn’t know what to do with the film.”
Given its success, and the relative ease with which Barfi! can be translated to a different market, it’s little surprise that an English language remake is reportedly in the works. Yet Basu won’t be involved.
“I’m happy that the film has spoken to people all over the world [but] I truly believe that film is a director’s medium and if a director wants to interpret a film in their own individualistic way, that’s their prerogative and they should do that.”