This week’s release Qarib Qarib Singlle is about a man and a woman who meet via a dating app, taking a trip together. If the film follows the set template, they have to discover themselves and each other and fall in love.
Movies about romance between strangers on journeys is a popular formula that goes back to at least 1934 (if not before) with Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night in which a heiress running away from home encounters a reporter who senses a scoop. The plot has been altered and reused dozens of times, and always seems to work, since there is a mix of adventure and romance to spice the formula. Of course, in movies, the young woman always meets an affable and handsome helper, not a creepy stalker.
One of the earliest in Hindi cinema, was Chori Chori (1956), a copy of the Capra film, directed by Anant Thakur, starring Raj Kapoor and Nargis.
Kammo (Nargis) is the spoilt daughter of rich businessman Giridharilal (Gope). She wants to marry Suman (Pran), whom her father insists is after her for money. The audience knows it too, because Pran in those days was never up to any good. Kammo jumps off the boat, pawns her ring to get some money and sets out for Bangalore, where she believes Suman is waiting for her.
She meets Sagar (Raj Kapoor), a reporter, who offers to help her, a bit out of gallantry, but more because of the scoop he will get. Giridharilal has, in the meantime, offered a reward for information in Kammo, which complicates the journey a bit.
Kammo gets off the bus to roam the fields, expecting the bus to stay put because she wants it to. But of course, it leaves her stranded with only Sagar to help. So commences their stop-go journey, bickering all the way, but also slowly falling in love.
When the second bus breaks down, they go to a lodge, where they have to pretend to be married and share a room, which necessitated the comic scene of dividing the space with a sheet, because a man and woman could not possibly sleep in the same room, unless they were husband and wife.
Eventually, Kammo goes home where her father is willing to let her marry Suman, but now she does not want to, because she loves Sagar.
The film was funny, romantic, entertaining and had a terrific Shankar-Jaikishan score with songs like, Aaja Sanam, Madhur Chandni Mein Hum, Jahan Bhi Main Jaati Hoon, Panchhi Banoon Udti Phiroon, Yeh Raat Bheegi Bheegi and Rasik Balma.
The real-life romance between Raj Kapoor and Nargis gave the film an extra zing, but they broke up just about then and never worked together again (after sixteen films together), except for a guest appearance by Nargis in Jaagte Raho.
The film retains its charm and freshness after over sixty years, the songs are still hummable. Today, maybe the women are not so naïve, the men not so chivalrous, but there’s nothing like a journey to set the heart racing.