I have been following Chetan Bhagat's metroic rise to fame and rightly so in his first 3-4 books. But unfortunately and sadly he has run out of novel and different ideas and that's what Half Girlfriend is.
It has nothing new to offer to it's readers. With it's movie adaptation coming in few weeks time I read the book and present what I felt about it to you.
There has already been some feminist outrage over the crudeness of the title, but as we begin to read we find out that Bhagat simply repeats his standard settings - a college, a common activity (in this case, basketball) and a girl.
Like in all of Bhagat's other novels, the protagonist, a man, suffers from a lack of self esteem. Like in most other novels, the girl he chases is beautiful, talented and we are given the impression that she is too good for him.
Additionally, Madhav is a country bumpkin in Half Girlfriend, which means his diffidence quotient is even higher, and the difficulty of his task greater. He hails from Bihar, the most reviled of Indian states, and stereotypically the most backward. He meets and falls in love with a beautiful Delhi girl. Delhi girls, by definition, are all beautiful, fair and wear short clothes. Bihari boys are closet chauvinists who freak out when denied sex, and hurl choice, crass abuse in Bhojpuri. Thus, Bhagat manages to reinforce another stereotype about India and Indians.
I have no idea why Karan Johar is yet to direct a film based on Chetan Bhagat's books. Such an act would fit in perfectly with Johar's image as a filmmaker who churns out romantic movies with minor modifications to the script. What Karan Johar was to Bollywood in the 90s, Chetan Bhagat is to Indian literature today. His books are in simple English, the script is rehashed, it reinforces stereotypes, and there is a boy chasing a girl (usually in college or classes).
We get similar fare in Half Girlfriend, except that Bhagat now wants to prove the point that a country bumpkin from the 'worst' state in India can end up with a very rich, very beautiful, very 'modern' girl from the most sophisticated college in Delhi.
Though I have pointed out the similarities in most of Chetan Bhagat's books, there are some stark differences between Half Girlfriend and the likes of Five Point Someone. Revolution 2020 and Half Girlfriend have exposed Chetan Bhagat, to be honest. The earlier books were readable because most were based on Bhagat's own life experiences. He could relate to the matter and hence expressed it better.
The last two books fumble for the lack of relevance and context. Like Revolution 2020, Half Girlfriend shows that Bhagat has been unable to break out of the tried and tested boy-meets-girl script even after the incidences ceased to have basis in his own reality. The fact that he cannot think of a fresh script would point to his inadequacies as a writer.
Bhagat also fails to tell us why a high-class metropolitan girl would fall for a rural boy with no talent except at basketball. While this is not impossible in real life, the reasons behind it remain unexplored until the very end. Chetan Bhagat's book can be accused of a lack of character development of the protagonists, which means we cannot feel their emotions.
Here's another blow: Most of Bhagat's other books held a lesson or moral for everyone to follow, however mediocre the expression was. Half Girlfriend is devoid of moral teachings. This is not to say that the book is an immoral piece of work - just that it's a rambling love story lacking in moral purpose.
But is that the worst of it? No. Would it be reasonable if I were to opine that the book propagates the idea that if you seemed desperate enough to win a woman's heart, she'd finally give in? In short, the philosophy that the girl always means yes even if she says no, as long as she's being friendly.
One thing that can be said about Half Girlfriend is that it is less boring to read than Revolution 2020. This may be ascribed to the Delhi connect, which appeals to the Indian metropolitan crowd, and the stereotypes of Delhi women and Bihari men which everyone seems to love reading and assimilating into their minds. Of course, there's the fact that Bhagat again manages to satiate the Indian appetite for dreamy, mushy romance. And sex.
So, the million dollar question : Is it worth a read? Only if you are a hardcore Chetan Bhagat fan, because it's pretty standard fare. It certainly feels like a screenplay suited for the movie-goers as it has lot of things going right from a Hindi romantic movie point of view.
Just looking and analyzing the book I would give it 2.5/5 and say Chetan Bhagat is capablee of much better than this and hopefully he can write better books which has a good story coupled with a message for the readers in his upcoming books.
Raghav is an avid blogger, reader and a movie buff, visit http://retrospectively-yours.blogspot.in to read his blogs on books, cricket, movies and everything else.