Going beyond the value judgments of good, bad, exciting, offensive, etc., there are certain films which makes you wonder about the whole point of the exercise, be it creative, commercial, political, anything. Tanuja Chandra’s latest release Qarib Qarib Single, which would have sure lost into oblivion save for the efforts of the lead pair, nonetheless ends up with the ‘memorable quotient’ of an ad film.
The film follows a successful insurance professional who has unfortunately been widowed early in youth and clings on to the memory of her late husband. Rather conservative by nature, she stays all by herself in a flat in Mumbai, spending time on skype calls with her brother studying abroad and thereby letting her life centre around her work and babysitting the pets and kids of her married friends. Things begin to roll for her when she puts up her profile on a dating website on an impulse and ends up meeting a quirky poet cum innovator called Yogi. When she challenges his bombastic claim that his ex-girlfriends still pine for him, they take off on a cross-country trip to meet the ex-girlfriends and do a reality check.
— kaahon (@kaahonwall) November 10, 2017
One of the problems with this film and quite a handful of recent films is the fact that the kind of social crises they are addressing, are simply not believable for the socio-economic class being dealt with in the film. Indian society, being largely patriarchal and orthodox, the social stigma for a single woman or a widow living all by herself do exist, but they manage to leave an impact for women from a certain socio-economic stratum or to be more precise with unempowered women. For an urban, educated woman who is financially independent, this entire baggage of a value system seems to be made out of thin air. And once the foundation of the narrative is not convincing, the rest of the film seems like a completely pointless exercise which turns out to be a cinematic version of mansplaining, as the woman learns the lessons of life.
Beneath the apparently snappy style and the selective focus of digital aesthetics, the entire content of the film is a tired rehashing of the late 80s-early 90s Hollywood rom-coms like When Harry Met Sally, Pretty Woman or You’ve Got Mail. The same unlikely characters, the same initial interest, the same misunderstanding during intervals followed by the same confusion and the blues and finally the same running towards one another. To make a film based on an outdated template from another part of the world in 2017 is really a strange choice. In fact, the filmmaker even attempts to boost the style with recurring moments of direct address to the camera, which makes it all the more juvenile, 50 years after the French New Wave and 30 years after MTV! Even the variety of space the film travels, from Rishikesh to Rajasthan to Gangtok, the images are so cliché that one can find those typical DSLR shots in Facebook albums of anybody who’s been there.
Amid this predictable exercise of banal futility, it’s only the performances of Parvathy Thiruvothu and Irrfan Khan who contrast each other with their earthliness and eccentricity, which manages to keep the film from taking a complete flight of fancy minus the poetic sense. It is rather disheartening see the writer of Zakhm (Mahesh Bhatt, 1998) at the helm of this sinking ship even after navigating the Bollywood waters for over two decades.