Tanuja Chandra is back with a film after a long nine-year hiatus. Known for films like Dushman, Sangharsh, and Zakhm, Chandra has drawn inspiration for Qarib Qarib Singlle from a radio play which her mother Kamna Chandra had written years ago.
In words of Tanuja Chandra, "The radio play stayed in mind for long. The story was about funny man, also a shayar, who had numerous flings in the past. He harbours the notion that the women must still be weeping and crying for him but the truth is far from that. So the film is actually my mother's story which I co-wrote with Gazal and gave a contemporary feel to it."
Qarib Qarib Singlle stars Irrfan Khan and Parvathy as leads with newcomer Aman Sharma in a supporting role. The film features special appearances from the likes of Neha Dhupia, Isha Sharvani, Brijendra Kala, Siddharth Menon, Bajrangbali Singh, Navneet Nishan Pushtiie Shakti and Luke Kenny. Qarib Qarib Singlle is the story of two single individuals, a woman named Jaya and a man named Yogi, both in their late 30s, who meet each other through a website called Ab Tak Single. What ensues is a series of fun-filled encounters between these two persons who appear to be poles apart to ever end up together. While the man, who calls himself a poet, believes in living his life to the fullest, the woman comes across as a shy and private individual who hasn't yet fully recovered from the trauma of losing her husband at a considerably young age.
Unlike most modern-day rom-coms, Qarib Qarib Singlle takes time to set up its characters as well as the world in which the story unfolds but it never appears slow or boring. In fact, the tone of the movie is brilliantly set by its opening montage that introduces us to Jaya, giving a sneak peek into her boredom-filled life. Also, the choice of the song "Khatam Kahani", sung by Nooran Sisters, for this sequence is quite interesting. From the moment Yogi enters her life everything around her changes. She gradually learns to let herself loose. When Yogi invites her to accompany him on a tour to meet his old girlfriends (remember he is a poet with numerous flings in the past) she disdainfully rejects at first but later on agrees to it. The chemistry between Irrfan and Parvathy is one of the movie's strong points.
The movie takes us to exotic locations across the states of Sikkim, Uttarakhand, and Rajasthan. Also, parts of the film are shot on the vintage Fairy Queen train. Qarib Qarib Singlle may remind some of Wes Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited (2007) and not only because both the films have travel as a recurring motif but also because of the undercurrent of humor that underlines the two movies.
It can be safely said that filmmaker Tanuja Chandra has made a strong comeback with Qarib Qarib Singlle. Here's a charming film with a lot of heart. While the movie has its share of weaknesses, its merits completely outweigh them. The casting choice of actress Parvathy, known for her work in Malayalam cinema, is nothing short of a masterstroke. Tanuja Chandra attributes it to her brother-in-law, filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra, who had previously screen tested the actress for a film that didn't materialize. Irrfan, on the other hand, must have been a natural choice for the part of Yogi. He essays the character of Yogi with such ridiculous ease that it makes us think that he was born to play the part. In fact, seeing him essay the part of the happy-go-lucky Yogi, some may find it a bit difficult to digest that the same man once essayed a maniacal serial killer in a TV series called Darr several years ago. But that's what all good actors are expected to do. Speaking of acting, Aman Sharma here deserves a special mention who makes his presence felt as an Old Delhi taxi driver who takes Yogi to Rajasthan when he misses his train. Qarib Qarib Singlle is a beautiful slice-of-life film about solitude and companionship that takes time to cast a spell on the viewers but once they are hooked there is no escape from its irresistible charm.
A version of this review was first published in A Potpourri of Vestiges.
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