BOLLYWOOD: In the thick of night, the father Narottam Mishra (Pankaj Tripathi) opens the door for his daughter Bitti (Kriti Sanon), who has returned home after a jaunt with a male friend. He smells alcohol on her breath but shrugs it off. He even bums cigarettes from her when he exhausts his own stock.
Then there is the mother Susheela (Seema Pahwa), who might call her a chudail (witch) for roaming around recklessly in the night but doesn’t appear to impose any curbs on her. Is this parent-daughter bonding for real or some sort of wish fulfilment, deliberate tokenism or a genuinely nuanced portrayal?
We may keep arguing endlessly on it, we may even carp about the constant stress on having brought up the girl up “like a boy”; nonetheless it does feel refreshing and hatke. Be it Farooque Sheikh in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani or Seema Pahwa in Dum Laga Ke Haisha or the Pahwa-Tripathi combine now in Bareilly Ki Barfi — the changing face of parenthood in Hindi cinema is worth a closer, more critical look, but that’s for another article.
Despite two seemingly progressive, non-interfering parents Bitti feels stifled. Because marriage is still the ultimate goal — both for her and her parents — and liberal young men are hard to come by. They want to know if she is a virgin. No such questions would be asked if she were a boy, says Bitti. She finds empathy in author Pritam Vidrohi who has created a character quite like her in his novel Bareilly Ki Barfi. She promptly falls for the idea of Vidrohi (which literally translates to rebel) without having met him.
After all, he finds khoobi (goodness) even in her aib (flaws). But the author Vidrohi is actually a printing press owner — Chirag Dubey (Ayushmann Khurrana) — who is battling his own love demons. And the real Vidrohi (Rajkummar Rao) is a meek sari salesman who can’t quite string two sentences together. Confusion gets confounded, a case of mistaken identities follows but eventually all ends predictably well.