In “Qarib Qarib Singlle’ (Almost single), Irrfan Khan plays a smart-talking, glib man who goes on a road trip across India. But unlike 2015’s “Piku”, this trip doesn’t seem to be as much fun.
Khan plays Yogi, a middle-aged man with lots of time and money who signs up with a dating website. He meets Jaya (Parvathy), a widow whose friends egg her on to “get some action.” She lives alone and faces the same problems that any woman above 30 in India faces while looking for companionship – the stigma attached to being a widow and the lack of suitors.
She and Yogi seem diametrically opposite – she is a South Indian, a working professional, and one who has strong ideas of right and wrong. He is a drifter with a disregard for rules and a ready repartee that often puts her off-guard. A love story between these two would have been interesting enough without inserting the travel bit into it, but director Tanuja Chandra and co-writer Gazal Dhaliwal are determined to take these two on what turns out to be a wild goose chase.
An off-hand remark about Yogi’s ex-lovers turns into a plan for a road trip to go and meet all of them, and Jaya finds herself tagging along. As they meet the women who made up Yogi’s romantic past, Jaya finds herself inexplicably drawn to this strange, whimsical man. But Chandra loads her narrative with too many things - Jaya’s unresolved issues with her friends, Yogi’s half-baked romances - and all of them do nothing to enhance the story. For what it’s worth, the beginning of a relationship between two people in their late 30s in India is a film waiting to be made, but Chandra lost focus.
Luckily for Chandra, her lead performers are powerhouses who can make even middling screenplays look good. Irrfan Khan seems to be having the most fun – he gets the best lines and takes great relish in serving them out. Parvathy as the woman struggling to give love a second chance is the star of the film – she’s expressive, vulnerable at all the right moments, and just the perfect amount of ditzy.
If only Chandra had focused on her two strongest characters and left out the rest, we’d have a winner on our hands.