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‘Qarib Qarib Singlle’ film review: Swipe right for the dialogue and performances

Irrfan and Parvathy turn on the charm in Tanuja Chandra’s road movie.

Tanuja Chandra has had an extremely patchy directing career, but she redeems herself substantially with the romcom Qarib Qarib Singlle, starring Irrfan and Parvathy as a made-for-each-other couple who meet through a Tinder-like dating website.

Army widow Jaya (Parvathy) has not been with a man for so long that her friend is worried that she will forget what sex feels like. In fact, apart from numerous references to the deceased husband, it is easy to imagine that Jaya is a virgin in the romantic game, easily horrified by male attention and clumsy when it comes to reading between the lines.

Yet, Jaya decides to bite the bullet and signs up with a dating website, through which she meets wandering poet Yogi (Irrfan). Yogi is given to mansplaining and manspreading, both of which he does with such ease and seductiveness that it is almost tempting to forgive him. An update of the character played by Irrfan in Life… in a Metro (2007) as well as a male version of Kareena Kapoor’s yakkety-yak Geet from Jab We Met (2007), Yogi rattles as well as charms the uptight (and vegetarian, naturally) Jaya. She goes along with Yogi’s plan to visit his three ex-girlfriends, all of whom he is convinced are still weeping over his absence. Lessons about letting go as well as holding on to what matters are delivered over meandering road trips of uneven quality.

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Qarib Qarib Singlle (2017).

Based on a story by Kamna Chandra and written by Tanuja Chandra and Gazal Dhaliwal, the 125-minute movie is a two-hander for the most part. Irrfan’s breezy performance is one of his most relaxed yet. Despite being painfully low on psychology, Yogi leaves an impression for his witty banter and infectious sangfroid. He has the best lines, and he belts them out with elan.

Yet, it is Jaya who emerges as the movie’s more powerful character. On the heavier side and filled with self-doubt and ambivalence, Jaya is an identifiable urban heroine who sometimes directly addresses her doubts to the camera. Her struggle to hold on to her beliefs against Yogi’s charm offensive is real and identifiable. Even though the screenplay has an annoying tendency to let Yogi have the last word, Jaya emerges as altogether less an romantic ideal and more human.

Parvathy plays the character with power and beauty despite being saddled with an embarrassingly long sequence that is this movie’s equivalent of the drunken heroine moment. Having swallowed an sleeping pill too many, Jaya has a fit of irrational jealousy when Yogi meets his second ex (Neha Dhupia). Parvathy infuses the scene with as much dignity as possible, but even she cannot overcome its problems.

The movie has a lot to say about romance, but shrinks from the prospect of sex between two adults. Qarib Qarib Singlle plays it extremely safe when it comes to the delicate question of whether the connecting door between the hotel rooms of the travelling couple will ever be opened. The one time it is, the movie produces a lovely moment of togetherness followed by avoidable embarrassment.

In this battleground, the manoeuvres are entirely of the verbal kind, and often very funny. Tanuja Chandra has a good technical team to keep the story from veering off entirely from course, especially in the flabby third act. Eeshit Narain’s pleasing cinematography and Chandan Arora’s editing produce a fabulous last shot – the final vehicle carrying Jaya and Yogi heading inexorably towards its destination, indicating both closure as well as a new beginning.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.