Review of Half Girlfriend by Chetan Bhagat

Chetan Bhagat is someone I admire, middle class boy made good, an intelligent Punjabi- which in itself I find heartening to acknowledge- because truth be told many South Indians think Punjabi’s are all brawn no brain. Having lived in Delhi amongst Punjabi’s for 22 years, I beg to differ! Add to that, an IIT/IIM grad who followed a passion for writing- what is not to admire!

I thought his Five point someone was fantastic- A very realistic, One night at a call centre- amazing, 2 States- a bit stretched, 3 biggest mistakes of my life- well written……and now Half-Girlfriend……

Why Mr Bhagat, why??? Books getting made into movies, yep- totally get that. I feel good when well written books are brought to the masses in film medium, some books lend themselves well to that, others have been adapted well.

With Chetan’s book, Five point someone, was adapted well, One night was good, 2 states was made for a good bollywood movie……Did you get totally carried away and decide to adapt a screenplay into a book??

While many writers prefer to write in 1st person & I totally get that- you cannot have the same plot build up each time!!!

In 3 biggest mistakes, he saves a young man who is tormented by his mistakes.
In H/G again a young man reaches out, gives him his supposedly dead girlfriend’s diary and Mr Bhagat saves the day in the end…

The characters:shakily built up- in his other books, we get a sense of Ishan in 3 biggest mistakes or of Ryan & Alok in Five point someone, even Ananya in 2 states is sketched out well.

Here neither Madhav nor Riya are built well, you feel no connection to either- If Madhav is a Bihari on a sports quota, there was so much Chetan could have done with him, a few hours with some DU students and there would have been 100’s of small nuances that would have brought the real “harry” in Madhav out!

Riya- a poor little rich girl with minimal treatment- even the abusive husband episode did not make one feel sorry for her!

The mother – Rani sahiba- seriously??? A TV serial saas to the letter!

The setting: St Stephens- for those of us from Delhi & specifically DU, we would all have a view on St Stephens’ – Mr Bhagat, you just lost all of us!!! The insipid descriptions, the absence of some of the key St Stephens icons- the residence, the chapel & the cafeteria- you missed all of that!!

The experiences of a hosteler in DU- hanging out in Patel Chowk or eating chowmein, heading out to Mall road – you missed all the little things that would have made this book alive!

The Plot: Shaky from the start- somehow did not capture the “class divide” that many rural students feel when the come to a big city & in a place like Stephens, so much more so! Even a small town boy, would go around thinking a rich girl is somehow his girlfriend & will sleep with him just because he plays basket ball well! And if for some reason that was what the plot line was, surely there needed to be a bit more to tell the audience how the romance developed!

Her story of being a poor stifled rich girl, ignored by her parents- straight out of the 80’s movies, where the heroine falls for the taangewala because her father is a mean rich man!!!! Does NOT happen in the real world!!!

Act 2: He heads off to Bihar (possible), somehow crosses paths with the Gates foundation ( maybe possible) & then struggles to make a speech in English?? Seriously after 3 years in Stephens & being offered a job with an MNC, he cannot string a meaningful sentence in English?

His mother’s presence in the plot- weak, half done! The trip to the US, searching for the love of his life- filmy
The fact that his even more dehaati friend is now an Americanised NRI -TOTALLY UNBELIEVABLE!

The book which I finally got a copy off here, and started with such enthusiasm left me angry!!!

From start to finish, it seemed obvious it was a story for a movie plot & a seen as an opportunity to make some moolah on the way! Down to the song at the end!!

Very very disappointed Mr Bhagat!


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