Chetan Bhagat is a male writer who thinks he can tell a woman’s story from her perspective. While siding with the male hero. Who is entitled to breaks in life, love, everything. The girl, meanwhile, is complicated and difficult.
He writes this book (Half Girlfriend sold more than any other book in 2014) with a movie adaptation in mind. Of course, it’s a movie we’re all too familiar with. Just with wooden actors to make it somehow, worse.
By the end of the film, a section of the audience (mostly teens) thought it was beautiful. “Semma story macha!”, “So romantic na?” I hear. Anybody beyond 20-years-old had confusion writ large on their face.
What did we just watch? A story about how a Bihari, broken-English-speaking boy courts a rich Delhi girl? Or how Arjun Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor prove that nepotism exists?
Rajkummar Rao’s words recently hit the nail on the head when he said, “Favouritism is there of course, it is present everywhere, so it is fine. But my only concern is when because of favouritism I have to see non-talented people in films. That is a problem for me.”
And that is where Arjun and Shraddha jarringly shine in this foregone conclusion of an inane film. Their performance has neither the chemistry nor the acting to make the audience believe that their characters Madhav Jha and Riya Somani were meant to be.
And yet, they’re the most talented leads director Mohit Suri could find.
Half Girlfriend opens with the protagonist Madhav Jha (Arjun Kapoor) trying to convince the suspiciously over-accented St. Stevens College’s admission board for a seat. With every question, Madhav, whose English is terrible because he says “Pleej” instead of “please”, starts off with his story of how a small town village boy should be given equal access to higher education.
It sets the tone for the rest of the film – that Arjun Kapoor will continue speaking in a so-called Bihari accent, will whine about English imposition, and trudge through every stereotype. He dons colourful shirts, punctuates his sentences with sasuraa (the supposed equivalence to yaar or machaan), dances to sleazy Bhojpuri item numbers, and acts out his share of misogyny.
That last at least everyone knows how to pull off convincingly. The filmmakers ensure that Shraddha’s Riya is introduced to the audience through her backless top, her thighs, her waist, and finally her eyes. No dialogues whatsoever until absolutely unnecessary.
Even though the two are from entirely different worlds and have zero chemistry, they come together. Riya proposes a half girlfriend-like situation. But Madhav, being an entitled prick, tries hard to convert the half-situation into full. Even if it means becoming physically abusive or chasing her when she wants to be alone.
In the world of Indian cinema, he’s just being a romantic.
In the film, this kind of love, this chasing the girl of his dreams (who is also out of his league) is the stuff of a tragic love story. In reality, I can only imagine Madhav being booked for harassment at a local police station.
Riya has her own problems. She comes from a messed up family. Her father beats and abuses her mother, and ignores his daughter completely. She drowns her sorrows in music, singing her favourite song – the catchy “Stay a little longer with me”.
With that as her backstory, there was so much potential in Riya Somani’s character – someone who could learn from watching her mother suffer every day, and make wiser decisions, be stronger.
Except, it’ll be a miracle the day Bollywood writers write better female characters. Before Riya could have had her defining moment, she’s packing her bags and running off to some place. Or dying of cancer.
While Half Girlfriend pretty much remains unwatchable, there’s one scene involving Bill Gates that has to be watched. Bill Gates, the richest man alive, visits Madhav’s small town. Except, remember when comedian Tanmay Bhat got into trouble for using the face-swap feature on Snapchat to impersonate Lata Mangeshkar and Sachin Tendulkar? It’s like that with Bill Gates.
I’d be half-surprised if Bill Gates sued the makers and half-delighted because they deserve it for their half-assed efforts.
The Half Girlfriend review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.