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Qarib Qarib Singlle Movie Review: The Best Travel Romcom Since Jab We Met

Subhash K . Jha

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Qarib Qarib Singlle

Starring Irrfan, Parvathi

Directed by Tanuja Chandra

Rating: ****(4 stars)

Look, there are lots of problems  in  Qareeb Qareeb Singlle. As  there are in  life. But that’s what makes  life , and life in  the movies, worth  living.

Qarib Qarib Singlle(QQS) is  a delightful  ‘romp’-com  about two middleaged strangers ,one a  widow the other a vagabond, travelling together to meet his ex-girlfriends.Don’t giggle.  Nothing  new here. But then if  you want something new,please visit your nearest mall and buy yourself  a  fresh  coat of paint for your livingroom. Movies make sense only when they bring us characters we  know in ways that we never knew that we knew them.

And  I can swear I have met Yogi and Jaya somewhere. The fact that  they are played by Irrfan and Parvathi(who is  a prized find for Bollywood)  is just so providential for director Tanuja Chandra. The  director gets  the best  possible actors for  the two principal parts.I can’t imagine what Yogi and Jaya would have been like had they been played by George Clooney and Meryl Streep.

What  follows after the flawless casting  for  the flawed protagonists  is sheer serendipity, as Yogi and Jaya , so mismatched they make chalk and  cheese appear like long-lost twins, take off on  a  journey that they, and we,  can never forget.

More than  anything  else it is just so refreshing to meet protagonists who are  over-the-hill and not afraid  of  the  view  on  the  other side….At least not afraid  to peep with brazen  curiosity to see what lies in store after middleage.

So  I  was telling you about Jaya and Yogi. Jaya is a 35-year old widow and Yogi is an obnoxious chipkoo,  a human leech  who just doesn’t know when to stop trying to get the other person’s attention. In  real life we avoid the Yogis although we know they are helpful, kind generous,considerate and well-meaning.

Irrfan pulls  out all stops to  play Yogi. He  redefines  the word ‘obnoxious’ , and manages to make Yogi endearing , like a distant benign loud and crass cousin who  makes politically incorrect ambivalently  sexist comments sounds plausible and acceptable. I doubt any actor  except Irrfan could have played Yogi so  honestly.
Irrfan has a terrific co-star in Parvathy, a well-known name from  Malayalam cinema, she plays Jaya with the right doses of  insecurity and swagger, pulling in her breath when tense, exhaling exuberantly when relaxed , making Jaya one of Bollywood’s  first post-30 heroines whose insecurities define rather than obstruct the  free flow of feistiness.

There are memorable cameos dotting the  devilishly flippant plot . Sidharth Menon  as Jaya’s brother  on  Facetime,is a part that shines  for its writing.NavneetNishan as a ditzy gossip-monger shows  up twice with lumbering  languor. And the wonderful Brajendra Kala  is terrific in a cameo as a hotel receptionist wondering  if he should allot a single or a double  room to Yogi and Jaya.

Our thoughts, exactly.

Though we know  how  this would end(movie hai na, baba) we  get sucked into Yogi and  Jaya’s crazy Bharat Darshan, probably because we have all been in such situations thrown together with people whom ideally we would avoid. Also, the journey is so strikingly captured.  Cinematographer  Eeshit Narain makesHardwar, Rishikesh, Gangtok and even Rajasthan  look inviting enough to make us want to leave everything behind and rush for a vacation.

But not now,please! There is business yet to be finished between this…this…criminally unmatched couple who seem to share nothing in common except trains,planes and taxis. Speaking of taxis, there are two interesting cameos by chauffeurs whom Irrfan’s Yogi insists on calling  ‘Betaji’ and who, again, like  much else  in  the film  are people whom we’ve all met at some point in life.

The film persistently strikes  up conversations we have had, or overheard somewhere  or the  other.

Tanujaa Chandra’s film doesn’t simply touch  your heart. It runs against the most sensitive portions  of  the heart,  tugs and pulls at your emotions in ways that are far from manipulative   or gratuitous. Yes, some  portions after the midpoint  get repetitive . The narrative tends to sag in parts.  But  nothing that Irrfan andParvathi can’t swoop up in their arms and  revivify.

QQS is a gloriously joyous journey into the heart and  the heartland. It is  refreshing to come across a film where the protagonists sound neither over-rehearsed  nor strenuously casual. The conversations are real.Mercifully when these protagonists talk or sing they are not afraid to make  mistakes.

And  yes, get ready to fall in love with that vintage Amit Kumar –R D Burman number Bade achche  lagte hain all over again.

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