Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight trilogy, a case study now, defied the formulaic romantic dramas with the meet-cute start, a sexy complication midway, a turn where one of the characters creates conflict, and finally, a joyful resolution. The trilogy introduced Jesse and Celine, their lives unraveling through marathon conversations and scenic jaunts. It was not just about discovering love, but through their constant outpourings, Jesse and Celine discovered themselves. Even Nicole Holofcener’s Enough Said, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini, was a heartwarming story without the trappings of run-of-the-mill rom-coms.
Tanuja Chandra’s Qarib Qarib Singlle might not have Linklater’s panache and the quirkiness of Enough Said, but it gives a romantic comedy sans the tropes of the manic pixie girl and the man-child that is typical of Bollywood.
Yogi (Irrfan Khan) and Jaya (Parvathy) are poles apart. Jaya is restrained, scrupulous and methodical, still holding onto the memories of her dead husband, while Yogi is effusive, flamboyant and impulsive with an odd obsession over his three ex-girlfriends – never the twain shall meet. Well, they meet through a dating app. A meet-cute and an outrageous proposition later, they decide to take a trip to Rishikesh, Bikaner and Gangtok.
The pace of the film may be inconsistent, but it is nevertheless peppered with snappy dialogues. Cupid strikes amid Yogi’s scatterbrained antics – boarding the wrong train after getting distracted by pakoras, and missing his flight because of his reluctance to part with his knife-cum-key chain. For Jaya, it is also about letting go of her husband’s memories and her self-imposed restraint. Even years after her husband’s death, she still has his name as her laptop password. In the ditzy and superficial world of rom-coms, even simple but relatable moments like falling sleep while talking over the phone can manage to bring a smile on the face. Unlike Shubh Mangal Savdhan, there is no dramatic climax or over the top declarations; this film ends where all love stories begin, leaving Jaya and Yogi with many possibilities.
In a film where there are not many supporting characters, the onus lies on the lead characters to take the narrative forward and Irrfan Khan and Parvathy shoulder the responsibility quite finely.
Shah Rukh Khan struck gold by playing the mandolin-toting hopeless romantic while Saif Ali Khan’s films – Hum Tum, Love Aaj Kal – started an era of the charming, witty man-child, which Ranbir Kapoor carried forward adding a bit of angst to the mix. Irrfan Khan, with his brand of acting, has introduced another type – the slightly older and mature man who is unapologetically crass and comfortable in his own skin. With films like Piku, Hindi Medium and now Qarib Qarib Singlle, Irrfan Khan has established that he too can play the romantic hero.
Parvathy owns the role of Jaya. Her easy-going charm makes the character very relatable. Jaya’s transformation as she gradually comes out of her shell is subtly portrayed by Parvathy. A grouse still remains however; Irrfan Khan at 50 gets to play the role of a man in his 40s while Parvathy at 29 takes up the role of an older woman in her 30s.
PS: For all the Karan Johars, Aditya Chopras and Imtiaz Alis of the world, road trip films need not always be in the lap of Europe, places in India too, can offer stunning imagery.
The Qarib Qarib Singlle review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.