Irrfan Khan's Yogi in Qarib Qarib Singlle is quite the unsuitable boy; or is he?
The best moments in Qarib Qarib Singlle come courtesy small gestures by the characters. Like the one when Yogi (Irrfan Khan) instinctively opens a cab door for the driver who is about to do the same for Yogi, the passenger. The moment does not end there: a long romantic scene between Yogi and his co-passenger, Jaya (Parvathy; utterly sweet) follows, with the cab driver as an unobtrusive witness. You forget all about this minor character as you get absorbed in the sensual mood building up between the romantic leads – until later, when the cab driver gives a piece of wisdom to Yogi. In appreciation, Yogi slips him something precious as an exchange. It’s not a tip. It’s a plot point.
Such moments are not new, especially in the romance genre. One of my favourite similar exchanges is between Richard Gere and the hotel manager in Pretty Woman, which leads to Gere’s ultimate realisation that he’s in love with Julia Roberts’ character. QQS makes these moments special because there are no long camera holds to underline any significant depth. They simply breeze along like the character — Yogi himself.
Yogi is one of the best characters to be written in Indian coming-of-age romances in recent times. He is not young like Sid in Wake Up Sid. Thankfully. He is a mature 40-year-old, and unabashedly annoying. When you see him first, he is perspiring, and sporting a garish red jacket. This is how we (and Jaya on her first date with Yogi) see him. Perfect rejection material, you would think. Next he throws up a lame wisecrack: “Do latte lana...laatein nahin!” He shakes with laughter at his own joke while Jaya stares back, unamused. By the time the coffee date is over, you and of course, Jaya, are interested enough to want another date. And irrationally enough, even go to Gangtok with him.
You see, he has two irresistible traits. One is that he is a poet and wit, candour, charm and sharp observations simply pour out of him. In contrast, Jaya, always wary, speaks little. When she starts texting on her phone, he points out: “Zabaan kum bolti hai lekin ungliyan tez chalti hain!” Two, he’s a through gentleman, helping Jaya shake off the creeps she’s met on the same dating site as Yogi. Now, here’s the interesting part: Yogi is no knight in shining red jacket, out to rescue a damsel. This is more of a ploy to get his date to trust him. Jaya catches on and asks him: “You’re not a stalker, are you?”
No, but he is the good old-fashioned guy who pursues with you with words and his life experiences. The kind of guy who thinks poetry isn’t for a Facebook status to get 1,000 likes, but to make it to a book that will be savoured by a reader. That makes you sigh for the magic of words, for honest conversations, for eyes that speak – just as Yogi’s do, when he stares into Jaya’s bespectacled eyes, ignoring an incessantly ringing phone.
When a seemingly harmless scene revolving around pakodas ends up becoming a serious, contentious one, you realise that it is mundane matters like these, not the candle-lit dinners and song-and-dance sequences that make Qarib Qarib Singlle stand out as a gem in the romance genre in Hindi cinema.
In this fine and deliberately meandering road film made by Tanuja Chandra, and co- written with brilliant dialogues by Gazal Dhaliwal, the hero may wax eloquent in poetry but he is also full of himself. And he snores. This character is qarib qarib annoying, but bilkul bilkul adorable.