Chetan Bhagat has turned a prolific writer over the years ever since his highly entertaining Five Point someone brought a chunk of the country’s youth back to books even if it was for that one chapter where the nerdy engineer got to deep his beak into a radiant beauty. His writings have time and again captured the imagination of a specific type of people (read sex-starved male students with one or more shortcomings). The fact that his books are easy to read and understand and have practically no literary values only made that much more popular and accessible.
However, one thing that his books do well is that they create a believable world and populate them with real people. Time and again his characters have been ripped straight out of real life. He writes what he sees and that’s because I don’t think he has the kind of imagination that one needs to create worlds. What he does is documents the world around him and in doing so he has on multiple occasions created earnest stories that make us go, “arey! This is true yaar…it happened to me too”. Half Girlfriend is one such tale and its cinematic adaption is earnest and to the point even if it isn’t a soul-churning affair that it could have been.
Madhav (Arjun Kapoor) is a boy from a small village in Bihar who has made it to a top college in Delhi owing to a sports scholarship. His biggest fear in life is to speak English and that also proves to be a hindrance to him in coming to his own. He meets Riya (Shraddha Kapoor) a tenacious but lonely girl from a super rich family who kind off prefers English to Hindi. As their friendship blossoms, Madhav gets increasingly nervy about the future of his relation with her and more so of what his relationship with her was. In his effort to get a clear signal of what she thinks of him, he ends up mistreating her which brings an abrupt end to their relation. Many years later they meet again In Patna where Madhav is now trying to do something good for his small village.
Half Girlfriend is a kind of film that you will enjoy only and only if you are able to connect with the emotions and the story that is on display. If you haven’t ever been a guy who has loved wholeheartedly but whose love has not been requited or at least if you haven’t seen it happen to someone around you, you will find this film hard to fathom. However, if you are familiar with the feeling, this film will give you moments of déjà vu every now and then. This to me was the biggest plus point of the film. The story is real and it is connectable.
There are moments in the film where you feel frustrated and heartbroken for Madhav. There are moments where you are unable to hold your giggle when Madhav does something stupid. There are also moments when you see how distraught and vulnerable Riya is even though she has the world at her feet. There are moments when your feelings as the audience are voiced in the words of Madhav’s friend who think that Riya is just using him but as the story progresses you gradually realize why it is so difficult for her to fall in love completely with Madhav even though she evidently has feelings for him.
Shraddha Kapoor has done a great job as Riya. Riya is a character that is difficult to play. There is a swagger about her which is a result of her condition in her household. It also comes from seeing her mother’s pathetic condition suffering through domestic abuse. Thus even in her happiest moments, there is a tinge of sadness which was beautifully brought out by Shraddha. I loved her act in Aashiqui 2 which I thought was one of the best things about the film. Here, she turns in a better and more nuanced performance which goes down a long way into making this film what it is. Arjun Kapoor struggles with his Bihari. He is too well dressed and he hardly looks or acts like a Bihari from a small village. But in between that and his somewhat lethargic movement across the scene, he turns in an earnest performance. His scenes with Shraddha are warm and he is able to get the tone of the character right.
The film has good music even though it is a tad bit overdone. I felt that the film’s runtime could use 15-20 minutes of cutting. The cinematography is gorgeous. The DOP does well to capture a plethora of different locales with equal finesse. The editing is fine except for that extra 15-20 minutes that they could have done away with. Overall, Half Girlfriend is a perfect date movie. If you are a sucker for romantic dramas with soulful music then this is right up your alley. I, however, feel that it will attract only a niche audience owing to its material. This is a film that has to be taken for what it is or it is best left untouched.
Rating : 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)