Monday, September 17, 2012

Barfi...a fail-proof recipe for a sweet indulgence that will leave you asking for more


  • Fine, perfectly nuanced performances by the two leading ladies; Ileana D’Cruz in her Bollywood debut leaves a lasting impression and Priyanka Chopra in a subtly delivered, unconventional role

  • A liberal mix of able performances by the supporting cast, notably Saurabh Shukla as the hapless cop who unsuccessfully pursues Barfi as the two create several slapstick Chaplinesque cinematic moments; Rupa Ganguly as Ileana’s mother, wary of letting her daughter make an unwise choice at a crossroads she herself encountered in the past; Haradhan Bandopadhyay as the ‘other man’ who values and loves Priyanka for who she is

  • Superlative direction by Anurag Basu, who makes this one of the finest films to have emerged from Bollywood in recent times, with brilliant camera work, evocative use of expressions and emotions to convey meaning without the aid of dialogues and drawing out of fine performances from his cast

  • Fabulous cinematography by Ravi Varman; bringing alive Darjeeling and Kolkata in each frame

  • Last but not the least, a stellar performance by Ranbir Kapoor who brings alive the character of Barfi in a knock-your-socks-off performance


Take a beautifully woven bitter-sweet story of the relationship between a deaf-mute guy Murphy aka Barfi (Ranbir Kapoor), who although lacking the senses of speech and hearing, is vibrantly blessed with the ability to live life with a free spirit and a, as he puts it more eloquently than words can in the film, ‘first class’ heart, and two girls who touch his life in different ways. One is the delicately pretty Shruti (Ileana D’Souza) whom he falls in love with at first sight and woos relentlessly till she eventually gives in to his charms, and the other is his autistic childhood friend Jhilmil(Priyanka Chopra) whom he initially pursues when driven to the edge by fate and circumstances.   

Add a liberal dose of the sweetly innocent romance between the poor but resourceful Barfi; usually on the run from the long arm of the law for his petty misdemeanors, and Shruti, which sadly caves in to Shruti’s inability to follow her heart, as she gives in to the ‘safe’ option instead and opts for a more ‘eligible’ suitor. Stir in gently the unfolding of the complex relationship between Jhilmil who sees the world with a unique sensitivity and recognizes Barfi’s spirit and soul in the way other, ‘normal’ people are unable to, and Barfi’s ability to connect with Jhilmil and win her trust and affection.

Roast a non linear narrative in some suspense, creating a plot that keeps you guessing till the very end and throw in an unexpected twist that adds a mysterious, whodunit element as the paths of Barfi, Jhilmil and Shruti dramatically converge.
Prepare a multi-string syrup of accompanying, sometimes quirky; sometimes heart stirring music right from the ‘picture shuru’ ditty that gets you in the mood from the word go, to the title track ‘Ala Barfi’ and add to the mix. Garnish liberally with breathtaking cinematography that lovingly brings alive the lush landscapes of Darjeeling and the vibrant chaos of Kolkata.

Savour fresh and warm, this lovely Barfi that offers a tribute to the uncomplicated nature of true, lasting love if only we would let it take its own path instead of cluttering it with logic and reason. Toss in the fact that the disabilities of the characters in the film are portrayed in an almost matter of fact way, never once attempting to elicit pity or sympathy; on the contrary Barfi’s uniqueness lies in his ability to deal with the trials life throws up with a cheery doff of the hat and a ready smile.

You will especially enjoy some slices of this dish such as when Barfi expresses his deep hurt at being rejected by Shruti through a soundless, wordless, and power packed expression of his anguish. Or the gradual building up of the relationship between Barfi and Jhilmil against the changing backdrops of Barfi’s rickety Darjeeling home, a tumultuous journey laced with green fields and rushing rivers to finally culminate in the noisy, bustling Kolkata which embraces them in its midst. Not to mention the subtle interplay of emotions when Shruti and Jhilmil meet each other, their perceptions of the other’s role in Barfi’s life and Shruti’s eventual realization of what could have been hers. Then there are other little nuggets like the test Barfi puts all his friends through; to lay his insecurity of being abandoned at rest, and the way he rushes to Jhilmil’s defense when a leery lout is giving her the once over, which will leave you with a sweet taste.

Dig into this delectable Barfi while it is still being served fresh; it will leave you with a happy rush like no other, and one that will stay with you long after you’ve polished off this unforgettable treat.

Polka Dots: A walk down nostalgia lane

Polka Dots has been a familiar part of the Aundh landscape for years now; with its trademark  cheery signage and welcoming al fresco-ish ambience, this casual dining restaurant is hard to miss on the bustling DP Road in Aundh. I’ve been visiting the Aundh restaurant for years now. Back when I lived there it used to be my favourite go-to place for its succulent chicken tikka kathi rolls and to-die-for desserts, and since it was one of the early entrants on the eating out scene back when Aundh first began its metamorphosis from a sleepy, on-the-outskirts-of- Pune suburb with just one or two restaurants to its name (there was a definite buzz in the air when Copper Chocs opened its first outlet!) to the busy, an-eatery-at-every-corner place that it is now, I have many a memory of several special occasions that we ended up spending at Polka Dots by default. It struck me as quite strange then that despite having lived in the vicinity for ages now, I was yet to pay a visit to the Polka Dots at Kalyani Nagar. Determined to make amends for this oversight (and maybe that blueberry crème brulee calling out my name had something to do with it), I headed there over the weekend, husband and child in tow.

After a hand-washing expedition to the tiny but clean restroom, the child returned armed with enough tissue paper to wrap a small mountain and proceeded to tear each sheet into slim shreds which she then waved like flags in front of the floor fan conveniently placed at the corner of our table. The ensuing fluttering in the wind caused unprecedented amounts of glee and excitement and childcare thus ably taken care of, the husband and I turned our attention to the menu which boasts of a selection of Indian, South East Asian and Continental food along with a couple of the usual American suspects like fries, wedges and buffalo chicken wings thrown in. After much deliberation (a standard item on the agenda when dining out with the husband), we finally settled on crumb fried chicken fillet for starters, a pitcher of ice tea and an Alla Sorriso pasta (grilled chicken, sundried tomatoes, olives, red pepper, walnuts) for P(the husband) . I decided to go for one of the dishes from the ‘today’s special’ section that is displayed prominently at the restaurant entrance and changed regularly; traditional roast chicken served with gravy, bread sauce, roast potatoes, sausages and steamed veggies. Order placed, P and I settled down to keep an eye on N (the child) who was now making paper chains with the tissue paper (bless that tissue paper) and take in the eclectic crowd that milled around the well spaced tables.
Its fantastic location (reasonably busy, yet not crazy like some places in the malls) ensures that Polka Dots always has a fair number of people seated within its café like premises comprising college students, tourists, families, gooey eyed lovebirds (its open all day) and the occasional dessert lover there just to indulge the sweet tooth. Both the PD restaurants at Aundh as well as Kalyani Nagar follow the same model; an open kitchen and a desert counter (more like a vertical display) flanked by café style seating all around. The place is shaded & ventilated quite well during the day and semi open in the evenings. Personally I prefer sticking to lunch; the all pervasive smell of mosquito repellent they use liberally in the evenings is a guaranteed appetite killer, at least for me, even though it does keep the mosquitoes away. The service is quick and efficient and before long our starters were served to us. The crumb fried chicken was wonderful; succulent, flavorful and fried just right and accompanied with an awesome tartar sauce-ish dip and the accompanying ice tea lent it just the right amount of tang. After wiping the starters off in no time we looked eagerly towards the kitchen and like an angel bearing manna from heaven, our server emerged with one of the main course dishes. P’s order arrived first; and he plunged fork and spoon into it eagerly only to declare with slight disappointment that it was much too bland for his taste. Dressed in a creamy white sauce the pasta Alla Sorriso does tend to be somewhat on the bland side; although I quite liked it myself. My only complaint was that the sauce seemed to have a profusion of walnuts which didn’t really add to the flavor.
The roast chicken arrived next, and while the accompaniments were lip smacking the chicken itself, though well done, lacked flavor. I made up for that by smothering the steamed veggies with lots of gravy which was quite nice, although the bread sauce was a terrible disappointment. The accompanying bread basket was a big hit with N though and she gobbled up the soft fresh rolls in no time. Our server was most gracious in re-filling the bread basket as soon as it was emptied and acceded to all of N’s requests to give her 'only the white bread and not the brown', with a ready smile.

Main course done, we found ourselves stuffed to the gills and much to our chagrin, with not enough room to even sample the desserts.  We picked up some French Chocolate (absolutely divine- a must try if you're a chocolate lover like me!) from the delectable Baker’s Basket next door which is managed by the same group that runs Polka Dots and headed home, but not without throwing many a longing glance at the Polka Dots dessert rack which beckoned invitingly as we left. It’s been a couple of days since that trip to PD but that dessert rack continues to shimmer alluringly in the mind’s eye, conjuring up visions of the seductively sinful Belgian Chocolate Mousse and the ravishingly rich Blueberry Cheese Cake at the most inappropriate of moments. Not to mention the lingering thought of an unfinished agenda that lurks on in the mind…something that I think only a return ‘coffee and desert only’ trip to Polka Dots will put to rest!

If you’re in the mood for a relaxed, casual dining experience or have a terrible temptation to indulge that sweet tooth; Polka Dots is definitely worth a dekko. The cherry on the cake, or, the cream frosted molten chocolate icing if you will, is that all of this gastronomic gratification  comes relatively easy on the pocket; our meal inclusive of starters, two non alcoholic beverages, and two main course dishes came to less than a thousand grand (and let’s not forget the half dozen lovely, crusty, complimentary baskets of bread that N alone consumed!).
Polka Dots has branches at Aundh and Kalyani Nagar and is open all day. For more information head to their website: