Bitti Sharma is a conundrum. She lives in a small town, works in a dingy government office and her only dream seems to be to get married. She also smokes cigarettes, watches pirated English films and break-dances. The heroine of Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s “Bareilly Ki Barfi” seems interesting at first. She ruins it all by reading a book.
Disappointed that she’s had two broken engagements and with no prospective suitor in sight, Bitti decides to run away from her small-town existence. But while she is waiting for her train, she happens to read a pulp novel she bought at the station. The book, titled “Bareilly Ki Barfi”, feels like it is about her - the heroine smokes, drinks and break-dances. Finally, Bitti feels like someone understands her. She goes back home and decides to find the author.
Her search leads her to Chirag Dubey, (Ayushmann Khurrana), who wrote the book but didn’t want to publish it in his name. So, for the sake of a token “You’ve Got Mail” plot twist, he publishes it in the name of his friend Pritam Vidrohi (Rajkummar Rao), and pretends to be the interlocutor between Bitti and her author crush.
This leads to a first-half that has some half-baked humour and warm moments between Bitti and Chirag and a hint of chemistry that adds some spark to the proceedings. But when Bitti insists on meeting the author of the book that changed her life, Chirag is forced to bring Pritam out of his hibernation. A meek, fumbling salesman who is constantly bulldozed by the more dominating Chirag, Pritam is reluctant to play his part in this love story but has little choice in the matter.
The film might have been an attempt to create a good old-fashioned love triangle, but the events leading up to it feel unnecessarily contrived, and the plot (by Nitesh Tiwari and Shreyas Jain) wafer-thin and stretched. The so-called conflict could have been resolved if the leads had an honest two-minute conversation.
Thankfully, the film is somewhat salvaged by Seema Pahwa and Pankaj Tripathi, who are brilliant as Bitti’s parents. Pahwa as the exasperated mother whose only aim in life is to get her daughter married off is a delight to watch. It makes you wish the movie was about her and her sparring sessions with Bitti, rather than the tepid romance we are subjected to.
Sanon puts in an effervescent performance as Bitti and is wonderfully complemented by Rao, who brings pitch perfect comic timing to what is otherwise a truncated role. Khurrana, on the other hand, seems jaded as the jilted lover, a role he has played once before this year (“Meri Pyaari Bindu”).
But he must get credit for the best line in the film. When Bitti feeds him a barfi (traditional Indian milk dessert) and asks him if he likes it, he replies: “Pheeki hai” (It is bland). This basically sums up the film, which could have used some spicing up.