Something has shifted in our Hindi film romance off-late. Have you noticed it? It’s become quirky, mysterious, and layered, as romance usually is in real life.
Now, Qarib Qarib Singlle is as charmingly odd as the double ‘l’ in its title. In some ways, this is your typical boy-meets-girl story…but with a twist. For here, our ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ are well into their 30s, and their meet-cute happens on an online dating site!
Jaya (Parvathy) is still mourning her husband’s death after a decade. She surreptitiously logs onto an online dating site, putting up a photo with her face covered by a curtain. That’s where she meets a man who claims that his hobbies are “poetry, poetry and poetry”. Yogi (Irrfan Khan) is a poet, with six self-published books, none of which, he confesses has sold a single copy. They’re two misfits— a perfect match, like that.
Both are eccentric too— one awkwardly reticent, the other overtly gregarious. While one feels the stirrings of love at once, the other eventually comes around. But then, you already know that. The fun is in the journey of course. In this case, literally.
The two oddballs agree to take a trip together with an even more peculiar purpose—to seek out Yogi’s three ex-loves and find out if they’re still pining for him, as he confidently claims. So they travel from Rishikesh to Rajasthan to Gangtok in this quest, constantly unraveling themselves and their equation in the process. It’s fun to observe this journey for the most part, and you forgive the smidgens of affectedness that crop up now and then.
You enjoy how Irrfan’s Yogi calls strangers ‘betaji’ and makes friends out of them in an instant. And how Jaya quits being a pushover and comes into her own…also in an instant. The film does hurry up the coupling a tad…though not like the overdone ‘love at first sight’ trope.
Qarib Qarib… takes you back to Irrfan’s other road romance— Piku, where again, it’s an unlikely romance between two dissimilar people. There are so many examples of oddball characters and romances in recent Hindi films. Simran had a romance develop between a part-time criminal, and her arranged marriage match who discovers the fact eventually.
In Shubh Mangal Savdhan a budding romance is tested when the man reveals he has a “gent’s problem” metaphorically shown with a biscuit falling into the cup of tea. Chef shows a divorced woman falling in love again, while her ex-husband struggles with his feelings about this development.
Bareilly Ki Barfi is again a twisted romance, involving an author, another character who is hired to impersonate him, and the third in the triangle— a feisty small-town girl who often likes to shock arranged-marriage hopefuls interested in knowing if she’s a virgin.
Toilet: Ek Prem Katha shows a refreshing take on love as we see our married couple steal romantic moments together as the husband drops his wife to a quick-fix loo solution daily. And again, this love story is on the brink of divorce, as the woman stands up for her basic right to a toilet.
When was the last time we saw a ‘love at first sight and break into a song’ type simplistic romance in our Hindi films? Honestly, I can’t think of any recent example. Quirky is indeed the new normal for Hindi film romance, and here’s to all colours of love coming alive in our films!