Ranbir and Ajoy in Darjeeling. Picture by Suman Tamang
Darjeeling, Sept. 20: Ajoy Singh, if he could speak, would have told his student, Ranbir, he gets 10 out of 10 for Barfi!
Ajoy is a 40-year-old peon in a GTA office in Darjeeling who is hearing impaired. He was Ranbir Kapoor’s sign language coach in Barfi!
On Monday, Ajoy, his family and 18 of his friends with similar challenges went to INOX to watch the film. Wife Sabita and 18-year-old son Anand, who acted as his interpreter when he coached Ranbir, were also with him.
Using signs, he said: “I am touched by his acting. I would give him 10 out of 10 for depicting the character.” His son translated for Metro.
His favourite scene was when Ranbir falls down while chasing a toy train at Tindharia. “The other scene I really liked is the one where he (Ranbir) tried to rob a bank,” Ajoy gestured.
Anurag Basu, the film’s director, was looking for a man in Darjeeling to teach Ranbir the right signs, when his contact person in the hills, Uday Mani Pradhan, suggested Ajoy’s name.
Basu, who spoke over phone, mentioned Ajoy was “very expressive”. “I first met Ajoy when we started to shoot in Darjeeling through Uday Mani Pradhan. He was very expressive, even though I do not know sign language. Had I met him earlier, I would have cast him in the film but the role had already been given to someone else,” Basu said. “His contribution is immense in the film.”
During the shoot in Darjeeling, Ajoy and Anand, who reads in a school in Kurseong, would go to the sets to teach Ranbir how to communicate through signs.
“We used to go to the hotel where Ranbir was staying and my dad used to help him. They gelled really well,” Anand said.
In July last year, after the shooting in Darjeeling got cancelled because of problems with crowd management, both Ajoy and Anand were flown to Mumbai by Basu to help Ranbir on the sets there.
“We flew for the first time and we were thrilled. Anurag Sir and the crew took good care of us. Sometimes, we used to go to Ranbir’s house, at other times we went to the sets and used to be there from 9 in the morning till 9 in the evening,” Anand said, translating for Ajoy. “We also met a lot of actors, such as Aditya Pancholi, at Film City.”
Ajoy, who had been trained in sign language in Delhi, stayed in Mumbai for nine days teaching Ranbir the expressions and signs to express love and anger.
In a dance that Ranbir performed in Bhutia Busty, Ajoy was in the crowd.
“My dad was a good dancer from his early days and has won trophies in Darjeeling and Sikkim,” Anand said.
On Monday, INOX in Darjeeling gave Ajoy, who works in the GTA’s agriculture department, and his friends 50 per cent discount on the tickets.
A bunch of college students who assisted Basu in managing the crowd and worked as extras, too, was thrilled after watching the film.
“The students from the mass communication department of St Joseph’s College are the unsung heroes. They were very enthusiastic from Day One and they helped the shooting go smoothly. When I was in college, I, too wanted to be part of such projects, but it was so difficult to get into the sets. I hope they have learnt a lot,” Basu said.
Anurag Pradhan, a third-year student at St Joseph’s, said it was difficult for media students in Darjeeling to get such an “exposure in the hills”. “Barfi! gave us the exposure on how a film is made.”
Another student Roshan Rai said: “The best part of Barfi! was to work with cinematographer Ravi Varman. I learnt many things from him especially on lighting,” he said.
Shrawan Lamzel of St Joseph’s managed an entire wedding sequence where Ranbir did the bird-like dance. Shrawan’s job was to get the entire baraat (groom’s party) dressed in their traditional clothes.
“Our first meeting with Anurag Basu was in Chowrastha where he had invited all the students. In the first meeting he explained to us that our primary role would be to manage the crowd and also to look for passers in the shot, said Akriti Pradhan. “Managing the crowd was difficult at times.”
Akriti, Yangchen Thapa and Priyanka Pradhan were also in the Keventers scene where Barfi (or rather Murphy) proposed to Shruti (Ileana D’Cruz).
“It was great to see myself in Barfi!” Priyanka, who watched Barfi! first day first show, said.
Yangchen, who acted as Ileana D’Cruz’s friend in the song main kya karoon said she was surprised to know that in the ’70s not too many people wore jeans.
“Since Barfi! was a period film and was based in the 1970s, we were supposed to wear clothes from that time. It was a nice experience to wear costumes and even to get a dab of make-up. I was surprised to know that there were no jeans at that time. I was told to change my jeans.”