Qarib Qarib Singlle: A note on how to make a non-stereotypical yet winning rom-com

Karishma Jangid
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Qarib Qarib Singlle: A note on how to make a non-stereotypical yet winning rom-com

As 'Qarib Qarib Singlle' completes five years of its release, we look at what makes it unconventional and keeps it refreshing.

As a teenager, I used to watch Hollywood rom-coms all the time. I especially loved "Must Love Dogs". Sure, rom-coms set unrealistic expectations resulting in heartbreak that haunts you for life but they feel soothing. As someone who reviews films, when I watch old Hindi romcoms now like Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, and Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein, I love them, of course. But constantly learning about healthy behavior makes it difficult for me to ignore the toxicity in these movies. Maybe they made sense then, but they don't make sense anymore! However, no matter how wise you become with time, you will always crave a good rom-com. I believe I have just found the perfect one with 'Qarib Qarib Singlle'.

Qarib Qarib Singlle is a 2017 rom-com starring the late Irrfan Khan and Parvathy Thirovothu. Jaya (Parvathy), a 35-year-old widow, is struggling with loneliness. She joins a virtual dating website via which she meets Yogi, a happy-go-lucky poet. They go on a journey to meet Yogi's three exes, who he claims are still in love with him. This movie is perfect because it uses the cliche opposites attract and enemies-to-lovers (kind of) trope but creates a story that is authentic, relatable, warm, and fun. Usually, I find gender stereotypes in rom-coms to be nauseating, gladly, I didn't find this in Qarib Qarib Singlle. It has been co-written and directed by Tanuja Chandra and co-written by Gazal Dhaliwal and Ramashrit Joshi while the story is by Kamna Chandra.

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The film is frank. It talks about sex, eyebrows, upper lips, and dating websites in the very beginning, hinting that you won't be judged at all. It's a love story for us regular folks. Jaya is on her guard and anxious. She constantly doubts Yogi and worries for her safety. Not because "Khud ko kya samajhti hai, itna akadti hai," but because she is caged in her limits and beliefs as a widow. Also, going on a date with a stranger calls for anxiety in every woman. Yogi is a poet, but he doesn't wear a shawl and glasses; he arrives in a red jacket and joggers. Poets are always shown to be poor (which is not far from the truth, honestly), but Yogi is rich because of his side job. I love how he chooses to base his personality not on his job, but on his passion. He is just like Jab We Met's Geet, talkative, and annoying, but he understands boundaries which makes him so refreshing. He appreciates feminism, openly talks about it without making it about himself, and understands consent. See? We like good men! However, in more ways than he realizes, he is also like Jaya. There is no one likable character here. Both are messed up, both are loveable. 

The best part is that the characters don't use each other to find their purpose or peace. They get influenced by the other person but look within for learning. Even when Jaya acts free or Yogi turns serious, it's not because the other person inspired them; it's because the characters deem it appropriate and are ready to act that way. The film also has a very refreshing take on exes. Usually, we look at exes like enemies, not like the people we once loved. This movie looks at exes as people we left behind for a reason. It looks at exes in a mature way, as the part of ourselves that we have outgrown.

Rom-coms heavily rely on the charm of the lead actors, which is why they're an easy formula to cast "stars" in the lead role. Irrfan Khan has always been viewed as a serious actor, but he fits perfectly in Yogi's role. He is charming and fun. He is not conventionally handsome, but his innocence is warming. Parvathy was a new face in Bollywood, but an appropriate cast! She does a Fleabag-type breaking-the-fourth wall so well that I wish there was more of it. Towards the end, she looks at the audience for almost a minute with no dialogue, only expressions, and yet she conveys so much. There is a cliche happy ending, but it's deserved, it's earned. It's in silence that the characters speak what's most necessary. And hey! Watching Irrfan Khan is always worth it, right? What sets this film apart is its somber, peaceful tone that has no unrealistic fireworks, but a realistic understanding of companionship. Until we get rid of stereotypes, Qarib Qarib Singlle will always stay refreshing.

Qarib Qarib Singlle is currently streaming on Netflix.

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