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Bareilly Ki Barfi: Ayushmann, Rajkummar are perfect foils for Kriti Sanon’s career-best act

Bareilly Ki Barfi starts with what has been its USP as seen in the trailer and songs so far – small town charm.

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The worn out yet cozy bylanes of Bareilly, a small town in Uttar Pradesh is introduced by the articulate voice of Javed Akhtar. His narrative takes you to the Mishra family – the patriarch (Pankaj Tripathi), matriarch (Seema Pahwa) and their daughter Bitti (Kriti Sanon), whom they have raised ‘as a son’.

She smokes, break dances, asserts her will on her neighbours and spreads out her legs while sitting on a bike.

While she has never been treated like a small town girl by her family, she gets disgusted by the misogyny that comes with every prospective groom, while she’s looking for prospective men to be married to. Dejected, she finds refuge in a book titled Bareilly Ki Barfi that she wantonly picks from a book stall.

The book that she grabs is ghost written by Chirag Dubey (Ayushmann Khurrana). It seems like he takes off right where he left in his last film Meri Pyaari Bindu. He writes a book in memory of his unrequited love Babli. However, Bitti finds the character of Babli a carbon copy of herself and approaches the publisher of the book to get in touch with the author. The publisher turns out to be Khurrana who gets smitten by Bitti as he sees shades of Babli in her.

The hurdle however is the picture of the author on the book, which is that of Pritam (Rajkummar Rao), a gullible friend of Chirag who he had convinced to masquerade as the author in order to hide his love for Babli, as she’s now happily married.

While Chirag serves as the postman of Bitti and delivers her letters to the author, he realises that Bitti has actually fallen for the author, and not the publisher.

Chirag convinces Pritam to do him a favour yet again and sets up his meeting with Bitti. But he trains Pritam to project himself as an embodiment of everything that Bitti hates – all her misogynistic prospective grooms rolled into one.

Cue love triangle.

Kriti Sanon delivers arguably her best performance of the career. She fits the bill as the girl next door and gets everything right from the accent to the styling. While her small town girl act is pale in comparison to say, a Swara Bhaskar from Nil Battey Sannata but her author-backed role gives her ample scope to perform.

Ayushmann is endearing as the unrequited lover; his smitten expressions clearly project the butterflies in his stomach which makes one wonder why Bitti is not able to decode his boundless love for her.

Rajkummar Rao nails both his acts – the reserved saree-seller and the brash gali ka gunda, who he pretends to be to imitate Ayushmann. His arrogant avatar is overplayed in order to draw contrast from his restrained avatar, which he excels in organically.

Special mention to Pankaj Tripathi and Seema Pahwa who are brilliant with their comic chemistry. They have some of the best scenes in the film that are sure to leave everyone in splits. Pankaj Tripathi is as restrained as his last dark character in Gurgaon but still manages to make you laugh because of the lines that Nitesh Tiwari writes for him.

The story so far is predicated given the trailer of the film spelt it all. How it shapes up now will determine the graph of the film.

The rest of the story revolves around this typical love triangle. The edges are sharpened by Nitesh Tiwari’s crisp writing and his wife Ashwini Iyer Tiwari’s tight direction.

Just like he did in Dangal, Nitesh gets all the local nuances right; Ashwini brings back the honesty and warmth of Nil Battey Sannata along with the street smartness and competitiveness she brought fore so aptly in that film. Also, the highlight of the music is ‘Sweety Tera Drama’ which is both irresistible and situational.

The editing, particularly the tug of war between Ayushmann and Rajkummar, is as sharp-edged as the writing.

Overall, Bareilly Ki Barfi is a character-driven as all the characters are pivotal to the plot and backed by substantial writing. The three lead actors drive most of the narrative – Ayushmann’s endearing expressions, Kriti’s livewire presence and Rajkummar’s unpredictable dialogue delivery provide the perfect ingrediendts for a sweet rom com that has its share of masala.

That masala surprisingly adds to the overall taste. While the film lacks the heartfelt moments of Nil Battey Sannata, it never gets pungent. It’s like a typical desi dessert that serves your sweet tooth but may result in adding a few pounds that you would certainly not mind.

Welcome Back review: A perfect storm of utter nonsense with Nana Patekar, Anil Kapoor and John Abraham

There are bhais and there are bhais. The first belong to the underworld and the other, to sisters at large. Uday (Nana Patekar) and Majnu (Anil Kapoor) belong to both categories. In Welcome Back, a sequel to Welcome by the same director, we meet Uday and Majnu, miserable in their decent man acts and gentlemen suits, which, incidentally, make for quite an eye-catching wardrobe.

Eight years after Welcome, Uday and Majnu have stayed away from don-hood in Dubai, having promised their sister’s uncle-in-law, Dr Ghungroo (Paresh Rawal) that they will walk the straight and narrow. Now, as Dubai businessmen in Welcome Back, Uday and Majnu find respectability comes with baggage, sisters and con artistes.

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This time, the duo find themselves saddled with one more sister — Ranjana (Shruti Hassan), daughter to Uday’s wife-hopping father (Patekar in a small double role appearance).

So Majnu struts around, shoulders tilted, wearing silver or black jackets and his trademark blue shades. Uday glares and glowers at goons while muttering “control” to himself while in his head, guns lock and load each time anyone does anything to annoy him.

In Welcome Back, Uday and Majnu’s woe is that they’re single. Even their henchmen have families, but our winsome twosome don’t have wives who will gaze at them on Karva Chauth nights. Then, both of them land up in love with the same girl, Princess Chandni (Ankita Srivastava), daughter of Maharani Padmavati (Dimple Kapadia).

However, this is no real love story. Padmavati is a con artiste who works with her daughter to snag rich men and weasel money out of them.

In case you thought this was a spoiler, all this happens within the first 40 minutes of Welcome Back, which is proof that plot is the least of Bazmee’s concerns in this film.

When 50-something and fitter-than-ever Kapoor and Patekar begin their screen time dancing to “Meet Me Daily Baby” and spend the rest of the film going round in circles, you know you are in for director Anees Bazmee’s brand of slapstick comedy.

Matching them gun for a gun, skip for a skip, silly words for sillier one, and crow for a pigeon is John Abraham as Ajju bhai. While romancing Ranjana, he does some surprisingly good jumps and moves of his own to outwit Uday and Majnu.

Our first encounter with him has him thrusting body parts to the tune of “Main Babli hui, Tu Bunty hua/ Bandh kamre mein 20-20 hua”. A rival don (a cameo by Ranjeet) says, “Yeh 20-20 khel rehein hain, inke body ka 50-50 kar do.” There follows the inevitable fight in which more of the inevitable follows — small-time baddies go flying in different directions and Ajju takes off his shirt to display a huge, sinewed back and several packs of abs.

But he’s not all muscle and no masti. Ajju has some romance scenes, in which he’s the ingenue opposite Ranjana, which suits Abraham just fine too. Haasan is a better and refreshingly sweet replacement for Katrina Kaif from Welcome.

And if that wasn’t enough, two more characters (Naseeruddin Shah and Shiney Ahuja) fly in with choppers to add to the chaos created by Hop Patekar, Skip Kapoor and Jump Abraham.

Shah is Wanted Bhai, a blind daddy of all dons who will, of course, kill for his druggie son, Honey (Ahuja). A fine mess is created with Honey being in love with Ranjana while Ranjana wants to marry Ajju while her ‘brothers’, Uday and Majnu, want Ajju dead. Oh, and Ajju happens to be Dr Ghungroo’s wife’s illegitimate son. This causes Ghungroo to call his wife “boycut hulkut” (she has short hair) and come up with devious schemes of his own.

Welcome Back gallops along, powered by lines like “Logon ki ma-behen hoti hain, aapki baap-behen ho gayi” and “Mobile uski, sim apun ka, tu beech mein missed call dene waala kaun?” A long graveyard scene is thrown in, with Kapoor breaking into his fantastic “Ae ji O ji” number, with his never tiring, super-enthusiastic grin. Thankfully, the film moves on to a quick climax point with all the actors running across sand dunes of Dubai, chased by camels.

Welcome Back kicks up a storm of utter nonsense thanks to terrific comic timing by Patekar and Kapoor. And it happens to be a welcome break from 24/7 coverage of murder, financial crashes and other serious news — purely because of the two talented actors who hop, skip, dance and fool around with complete conviction.