Half Girl Friend – Is it a Novel or a Movie Script?

Half Girl Friend, the most talked novel of recent times, is authored by the famous and inspiring Indian writer Chetan Bhagat. While many modern bookworms criticize him for his style of simple, straight English and giving the desi touch with local slangs of words. I totally disagree with this aspect. He creates a picture perfect storyboard of Indian mentality, especially the lower middle class who struggle for their daily livelihood. He caters to that particular segment, which incidentally is more than 70% of India’s population. His books have a particular formula, where he tries to make use of themes which depict Indians as they are. That is why they appear so corny to some of us. Moreover, few criticize his writings without actually reading them or knowing the audience he is catering to or judging him by the success or failure of his previous books. Well, all set and done, none can deny that he is truly an inspiration to the young Indian writers who dream to publish their book, no matter how small or big it is.

Well, the book Half Girl Friend had gained its popularity even before its release. Kudos to the reach of our media. A regular reader of Chetan Bhagat’s novel, it took me an uninterrupted 2hours and 30 minutes to complete this 260 pages novel. The story of “Half-Girlfriend” was much more than what its promo tried to convey. Almost all of us thought it would be more on the lines of “Friends with Benefits” or “Strangled Strings” type, unfortunately as it is the present mind-set of the youngsters. But the book proved wrong.

The story revolves around Madhav Jha, a Bihari guy with no English fluency falls for Riya, a high-class Delhi girl. He proposes to her to be his girlfriend, but she says no. Madhav wanted a relationship. Riya didn’t. Riya just wanted friendship. Madhav didn’t. Riya suggested a compromise. She agreed to be his half girlfriend. The concept isn’t really new. There have been hundreds of books and movies on the same theme. But in the end, the treatment is what matters the most.

The main characters meet in college as teenagers. Their passion and love for basketball brings them close, but their bliss does not last. Both take off their separate ways to pursue individual dreams but destiny has other plans for them. They meet after three years, both older and wiser. Only to be separated by another twist of fate. They meet yet again in the climax, this time to end up together.

While the book starts off as the usual chick-lit novels, it changes the track to delve into deeper issues such as marital violence, mother-in-law’s harassment, philanthropy, class divides, caste divides, death, depression and pain. Yet, it also portrays a desire to succeed, an internal fire to achieve something for the society and a hope to win back love.

The narration is interesting in parts. The feel of the character played by Madhav can be sensed by the readers. The situations he faces and the way he tackles them is sure to find a lot of applause. Riya, though not too strong, isn’t portrayed too weakly either. She has a mind of her own and wants to live her life on her own terms rather than pleasing her family. The book has quite a few sparkling moments, including one when Madhav, the Bihari guy, delivers a speech (a section of which is impromptu) in English in front of Bill Gates and bags a grant from the Gates Foundation. The story picks up pace after the first 50-60 pages as both Madhav and Riya go on to pursue their dreams. The story happens over a period of 7 years or so and with changing times during which the maturity of the characters is reflected clearly.

From romance to melodrama; from focusing on governmental inefficiency to philanthropy by foreigners, the author has got all his bases covered in terms of what he wants to convey to his readers. From Bihar to Delhi to New York, he has described the places quite well. For a story that is largely narrated in flashback, the writer maintains a good grip on the plot.

My only question is – Is it a novel or a movie script? While reading the book, one is bound to get the sensation of a future Bollywood movie. The story has all kinds of masalas of love-hate relationship, ambitions, a few twists, typical Indian hypocrisies etc. Nevertheless, it’s way better and sensible than the previous book Revolution 2020.

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