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9 Years of Barfi: Priyanka Chopra Almost Didn't Land the Role That is Now One of Her Best Performances

By: Bohni Bandyopadhyay

News18.com

Last Updated: September 14, 2021, 09:16 IST

Priyanka Chopra in Barfi!

Priyanka Chopra in Barfi!

Priyanka Chopra's role as the autistic woman Jhilmil in Barfi!, which released today nine years ago, remains one of the best performances in her career.

Nine years ago on September 14, as Anurag Basu’s ‘Barfi!’ released, we watched in awe as Priyanka Chopra stripped away every layer of gloss and glamour that comes with being a Bollywood actress to completely lose herself in the role of Jhilmil, an autistic woman. Acting opposite Ranbir Kapoor, who was delightful as the deaf and mute Murphy (Barfi), Priyanka had the tough job of not only to deliver, but also do it sensitively. She had to be antithetic to his happy-go-lucky persona, but also complement him in a way to prove Jhilmil is his perfect partner in the love triangle.

Priyanka’s Miss World image almost came in the way of her casting, as Anurag Basu wasn’t sure she’d be able to do justice to Jhilmil. In an interview to Film Companion a few years ago, Priyanka said that when Anurag met her at her house and saw her come back from an event, he said, “I think I made a mistake. I think I should cast a real autistic girl only. This is a stupid idea. How can I expect Priyanka Chopra to do this, look at you.”

Priyanka then convinced him to give her five days and do a workshop to figure out if they could do it at all. With films like Fashion and 7 Khoon Maaf already behind her, Priyanka sought to delve deeper into her craft as an artist, and shed the ‘beauty queen-turned-actress’ tag once and for all. But was the effort seen and appreciated enough?

The director himself had said at that time that Priyanka had a tougher job at hand. The reviews raved on about Ranbir’s brilliant performance, but Priyanka did not garner as much praise. Ranbir’s expressions and body language reminded critics of Charlie Chaplin and Roberto Benigni. In comparison, Priyanka’s range, within limits of the disabilities that her character came with, didn’t get many lofty adjectives.

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She was nominated in the leading actress category at several awards that year, but lost most of them to other colleagues. At the 2013 Filmfare Awards, Barfi! was nominated in 13 categories. While Ranbir won Best Actor, Priyanka lost the Best Actress trophy to Vidya Balan (Kahaani). At the IIFA awards that year, the film was nominated in 21 categories, including Best Actor for Ranbir Kapoor, which he took home, but Priyanka was again trumped by Vidya. PC was given the best actress viewer’s choice trophy at the Zee Cine awards that year, while the jury award went to Vidya.

In January 2021, while promoting The White Tiger, Priyanka recalled being snubbed by both the critics and awards juries, but receiving love from her fans. “This movie called Barfi I did, makes me really happy, my fans really liked it because I didn’t expect. I also didn’t win any of the awards that year, I also didn’t get a lot of appreciation, but I got a lot from the fans,” Priyanka said on the YouTube show Hot Ones.

After she won her first National Award with Fashion, which was a much more mainstream role, many had assumed that she would win her second with Barfi!. The film did not receive a single National Award that year. When the film was also ousted from the Oscar race as well, Priyanka had said, “I am glad the film was considered and sent as India’s official entry to the Oscars. It was a very special film for us. We made it from the heart and I am really happy for the kind of response I’ve got for Jhilmil’s character.”

Awards and races apart, Barfi! ultimately emerges as a winner on the filmography of Priyanka Chopra. She has been part of several major Indian and foreign productions in two decades of her career, but PC still names Barfi! as one of her best films, on par with Bajirao Mastani and 7 Khoon Maaf. It will remain a milestone in her career, and a fond memory for movie buffs who’d probably like to dip into the nostalgia-filled innocent world of Barfi and Jhilmil from time to time.

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first published:September 14, 2021, 09:16 IST
last updated:September 14, 2021, 09:16 IST