How Qarib Qarib Singlle revives a forgotten Bollywood genre — the travel romcom

Abhishek Srivastava

Nov,13 2017 16:17 38 IST

The Bollywood romcom travel genre has taken a leap forward with the Irrfan Khan and Parvathy starrer Qarib Qarib Singlle.

The depth and the maturity with which Tanuja Chandra had handled the subject matter, in the backdrop of sand dunes, hills and pristine beauty of Gangtok, deserves kudos. There is something special about love stories that develops in the backdrop of a road trip. Think back to the greatest movie Bollywood has ever seen – Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. What immediately strikes you is a charming narrative with Shah Rukh Khan serenading Kajol amidst scenic locales of Europe and green fields of Punjab. DDLJ is romantic comedy that still remains unmatched. On the same lines, Jab We Met and Piku also come to mind.

Parvathy and Irrfan Khan in Tanuja Chandra's Qarib Qarib Singlle. Image via Facebook/ Media Spook

Parvathy and Irrfan Khan in Tanuja Chandra's Qarib Qarib Singlle. Image via Facebook/ Media Spook

Love stories that unfold during road trips have something unique about them.

These remain journeys where inhibitions take a back seat, and what is presented to viewers is rawness at its best. Actors dare to challenge their inner selves and tread where they have never ventured before.

It could only be sheer coincidence that the best performance for Kareena, Alia and Deepika are considered Jab We Met, Highway and Piku respectively, all strangely love stories in the backdrop of a long journey. The locations outsides the confines of Mumbai studios give these actors an opportunity to go that extra mile and the result is always a welcome one.

The best example of this is a heart-warming scene in Qarib Qarib Singlle, where Parvathy picks on a white strand of hair.

It's strange that the Raj Kapoor and Nargis starrer Chori Chori (a remake of Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night) was first in its genre but despite the success, Bollywood could not see through the potential road-trip love stories have. It took 35 years for Mahesh Bhatt to recreate the same in Dil Hai Ke Manta Nahin and the magic of the film still remains intact even after 26 years.

Bombay to Goa remains the only one of its kind film that was made in the 70s and its success lies in the fact that there are still takers. One common thread that binds such films is the fact that despite being commercial success at the box office they are known more for their evergreen appeal and still maintain the potency of repeated viewings. The tiredness never sets in despite the multiple viewings and the characters with the passage of time slowly become someone who can easily be identified with. Dil Chahta Hai, in its trip from Mumbai to Goa, gave three distinct characters and one of the reasons for the film becoming a huge success was also the fact that the characters were relatable.

Kangana Ranaut in a still from Queen. YouTube

Kangana Ranaut in a still from Queen. YouTube

So why is it that despite being one of the most loved genres of Hindi films, makers have always shied away from making such films? It’s a pity that this genre has not been exploited to its potential. Barring a few like Zoya Akhtar and Imtiaz Ali in the current generation, other big filmmakers have always maintained a distance.

The problems that afflict filmmakers while dealing with such subjects are two pronged. A film of such nature automatically demands shooting requirements at a number of locations, which is directly proportional to the budget of the film. A surge in the cost of making of the film instinctively deters filmmakers from opting for such subjects. The handling of such subjects also requires some amount of mature writing.

Piku, Jab We Met, Tamasha, Queen and Yeh Jawani Hai Diwani were all films that charted the growth of the characters in a matured and convincing manner. The same was missing in Imtiaz Ali’s Jab Harry Met Sejal, which lacked a basic graph and a story. Failure to grapple with this will take no time in making the film a travel documentary.

YouTube Screengrab. Tamasha

YouTube Screengrab. Tamasha

One heartening thing about such films is that with every passing film the level of maturity and the portrayal of characters has been on an upward swing and Qarib Qarib Singlle reinforces this fact. The search for finding the true meaning of life and the quest to explore relationships often come alive in such films. And that's why it is sad that no such films are on the horizon in coming months and that says a lot.