Bollywood movies often show that for a character to confess and portray they are in love, they have to wax eloquent about their lovers. But there is one movie that subverted this narrative. The story of Jhilmil and Barfi from Barfi! that managed to give us one of the most comforting couples in mainstream Hindi cinema.
It is worth noting how Barfi! did not reduce characters with special needs to mere caricatures on screen. Barfi and Jhilmil were well-written characters and every spectrum of their emotions was brought out. The characters exuded warmth and comfort in the presence of each other, proving that good writing shines through even without dialogues.
Jhilmil and Barfi could not talk and express what they felt for each other. However, they managed to find a language of their own to get their feelings across for each other in the most unique and the most touching of ways.
Barfi kidnaps Jhilmil and brings her home. Landing in a place that was not the special care home or her house was something she had not experienced before. The first night at Barfi’s home we see her holding on to his pocket cloth to go to the washroom and later sneakily clutching on to his little finger to sleep.
Jhilmil slowly starts warming up to Barfi and we can see their chemistry come through. It starts with Barfi trying to make the embarrassed Jhilmil smile after she bit his forearm. This gets more obvious when he leaves her at her nanny’s place but she refuses to stay there. She found more solace in Barfi than at her own house and that makes her follow him.
Despite their inability to express what they feel for each other in words, they let their actions speak. When a man gawks at a sleeping Jhilmil in the truck, Barfi shelters her. There is also a scene where Jhilmil picks wildflowers and gives them to Barfi who tucks them at his ears.
When they move to Kolkata, they find a house and create a small world for themselves. While Barfi makes chapati, Jhilmil makes small creatures out of atta. While he eats, she fans him. It is in these tiny moments that they show their love for each other in the sweetest of ways. Their love goes beyond the usual.
Their love resides in how Jhilmil always looks to clutch onto Barfi’s clothes and how Barfi gives it to her almost like a routine. It resides in their game of mirrors, just like an inside joke couples share. It resides in how Jhilmil was the only person who didn’t flinch or run away when Barfi pulled his infamous test of sawing the street lamp and letting it fall. It also resides in how she stands before Barfi protecting him from Shruti at the special care home when they meet in the climax.
Most love stories show a kiss or a hug as an intimate moment. For Jhilmil and Barfi, intimacy lies in the way they touch their foreheads and relish that moment. Non-sexual but extremely intimate, their intimacy is emotional and experiential almost making your heart melt for these two. It lies in companionship and comfort and being able to understand each other.
Jhilmil and Barfi are far from being any other cliché couple in Bollywood. Their love was like a warm and fuzzy blanket on a cold winter morning. They showed how you don’t need to write poems to express your love.
Sometimes love lies in simply being present and being comfortable around each other.