Opening this week

‘Half Girlfriend’ film review: The Chetan Bhagat adaptation is a 50-50 affair

Mohit Suri’s movie based on the bestseller loses most of the misogyny but remains a plastic romance.

”Myself Madhav Jha” meets the gorgeous and wealthy Riya Somani in college, and it’s a match made in romance novel and movie heaven.

Mohit Suri’s adaptation of Chetan Bhagat’s Half Girlfriend cuts through the flab, sheds most of the misogyny, and gets to the book’s shuddering heart. Madhav (Arjun Kapoor) can barely speak English, but gets a seat in the prestigious Steven’s College in Delhi on the basis of his basketball skills. On the court, he glimpses and falls for Riya (Shraddha Kapoor), and spends the 135-minute movie, as did his novelistic predecessor, pursuing her.

The other Hindi release this week is called Hindi Medium, but that title really belongs to this film. Its lead character is a member of an erstwhile royal family in Bihar (fading in the novel, not badly off at all in the movie) whose only drawback is his inability to speak English. It’s described as a foreign tongue, but since Bhagat’s book sold many copies in English and the film dialogue has liberal sprinklings of the same hated tongue, it’s safe to assume that romance, rather than linguistic politics, drives the plot.

Tushar Hiranandani’s screenplay and Ishita Moitra Udhwani’s dialogue lose the snarky and pompous tone of the narrator in the novel and convert him into a big soft teddy bear who is transformed by his love for Riya. Arjun Kapoor, of limited acting skills but tremendous chutzpah, is therefore perfectly cast as the lumbering hero who looks far too old to be playing a college fresher but is nevertheless well suited to rising and falling in love. Glaze-eyed Shraddha Kapoor is equally well matched as a woman seen entirely through Madhav’s smitten gaze. She starts out as an object of fantasy, disappears and reappears from Madhav’s life, and is such a diaphanous character that she is almost a ghost.

Play
Half Girlfriend (2017).

Both the book and the movie are low on psychology, but are alert enough to leap through every available narrative hoop. Madhav tries to get over a broken heart by pitching for funds to educate girls at the school run by his mother (Seema Biswas) to no less than the richest man in the world. The most audacious moment in the movie is the arrival in Madhav’s village of Bill Gates, or rather his face morphed on a local actor’s body as though in a meme produced by a teenager. Madhav’s pitch for funds, delivered so earnestly in broken Hindi that the Bill Gates facsimile melts in appreciation, is Half Girlfriend’s most radical departure from the book.

Director Mohit Suri has a proven track record for making cloying movies about adolescent love. His one attempt to depict adult emotions, Hamari Adhuri Kahani, backfired badly, but he is on far more stable ground in Half Girlfriend. Bhagat’s novel argued that the hormones that bubble on the college campus never quite leave the air even after the characters have grown older. So it is with Madhav, who passes on a chance to acquire a full girlfriend (Rhea Chakraborty in a pleasing cameo) and continues to light candles in Riya’s memory.

Madhav’s exertions are as exhausting on the screen as they are in the book, but Suri manages to convert Bhagat’s ruminations on the Hindi-versus-English debate into a romance that has a bit more feeling than is evident on the page. The movie remains cold and manipulative, and far too heavily dependent on Raju Singh’s swooning soundtrack to suggest emotional depth. The leads are not capable of suggesting the grand emotions at work, and whenever Suri wants to tug at heart strings, he cuts to a song.

Play
The song Phir Bhi Tumko Chaahunga from Half Girlfriend (2017).

Bhagat’s novel suffered from the writer’s inability to imagine Riya as anything more than a half person. The film too abounds with many such half persons, including Madhav’s college friend Sailesh (Vikrant Massey) who advises him that the best way to find out Riya’s real intentions is to bed her, and Madhav’s mother, another ghost in the potential money-making machine. It’s a 50-50 affair, a movie undone by its title.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Virat Kohli and Ola come together to improve Delhi's air quality

The onus of curbing air-pollution is on citizens as well

A recent study by The Lancet Journal revealed that outdoor pollution was responsible for 6% of the total disease burden in India in 2016. As a thick smog hangs low over Delhi, leaving its residents gasping for air, the pressure is on the government to implement SOS measures to curb the issue as well as introduce long-term measures to improve the air quality of the state. Other major cities like Mumbai, Pune and Kolkata should also acknowledge the gravitas of the situation.

The urgency of the air-pollution crisis in the country’s capital is being reflected on social media as well. A recent tweet by Virat Kohli, Captain of the Indian Cricket Team, urged his fans to do their bit in helping the city fight pollution. Along with the tweet, Kohli shared a video in which he emphasized that curbing pollution is everyone’s responsibility. Apart from advocating collective effort, Virat Kohli’s tweet also urged people to use buses, metros and Ola share to help reduce the number of vehicles on the road.

In the spirit of sharing the responsibility, ride sharing app Ola responded with the following tweet.

To demonstrate its commitment to fight the problem of vehicular pollution and congestion, Ola is launching #ShareWednesdays : For every ​new user who switches to #OlaShare in Delhi, their ride will be free. The offer by Ola that encourages people to share resources serves as an example of mobility solutions that can reduce the damage done by vehicular pollution. This is the fourth leg of Ola’s year-long campaign, #FarakPadtaHai, to raise awareness for congestion and pollution issues and encourage the uptake of shared mobility.

In 2016, WHO disclosed 10 Indian cities that made it on the list of worlds’ most polluted. The situation necessitates us to draw from experiences and best practices around the world to keep a check on air-pollution. For instance, a system of congestion fees which drivers have to pay when entering central urban areas was introduced in Singapore, Oslo and London and has been effective in reducing vehicular-pollution. The concept of “high occupancy vehicle” or car-pool lane, implemented extensively across the US, functions on the principle of moving more people in fewer cars, thereby reducing congestion. The use of public transport to reduce air-pollution is another widely accepted solution resulting in fewer vehicles on the road. Many communities across the world are embracing a culture of sustainable transportation by investing in bike lanes and maintenance of public transport. Even large corporations are doing their bit to reduce vehicular pollution. For instance, as a participant of the Voluntary Traffic Demand Management project in Beijing, Lenovo encourages its employees to adopt green commuting like biking, carpooling or even working from home. 18 companies in Sao Paulo executed a pilot program aimed at reducing congestion by helping people explore options such as staggering their hours, telecommuting or carpooling. After the pilot, drive-alone rates dropped from 45-51% to 27-35%.

It’s the government’s responsibility to ensure that the growth of a country doesn’t compromise the natural environment that sustains it, however, a substantial amount of responsibility also lies on each citizen to lead an environment-friendly lifestyle. Simple lifestyle changes such as being cautious about usage of electricity, using public transport, or choosing locally sourced food can help reduce your carbon footprint, the collective impact of which is great for the environment.

Ola is committed to reducing the impact of vehicular pollution on the environment by enabling and encouraging shared rides and greener mobility. They have also created flat fare zones across Delhi-NCR on Ola Share to make more environment friendly shared rides also more pocket-friendly. To ensure a larger impact, the company also took up initiatives with City Traffic Police departments, colleges, corporate parks and metro rail stations.

Join the fight against air-pollution by using the hashtag #FarakPadtaHai and download Ola to share your next ride.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Ola and not by the Scroll editorial team.