Director: Mohit Suri
Cast: Arjun Kapoor, Shraddha Kapoor, Vikrant Massey, Rhea Chakraborty
Half Girlfriend has as many as six music directors. The album has around ten tracks that cover approximately 138 minutes of the film’s running length of 135 minutes. But Chetan Bhagat’s original book is so bad that all the generic sad-love Mithoon ballads in the solar system can’t drown out the shiny, half-witted and aspirational Bollywood-ness of his writing. His interpretation of modern love and campus life is straight out of an illegal Arindam Chaudhuri IIPM brochure fluttering across the pink halls of Rok Sako To Rok Lo’s trendy colleges.
His ideas of Bihar, small-town dreams, privilege, poverty, class divides, sports, elitism, sex, romance, education, separation, relationship dynamics, dysfunctional families, feminism and domestic violence seem to be ripped out of an eighteen-year-old Miss World contestant’s rehearsed speech waxing lyrical about World Peace and African orphans. His immense fondness of serendipity and chance as dramatic plot devices is almost as obsessive as Ram Gopal Varma’s penchant for blinding audiences through absurd camera angles.
While other writers are fighting for credit in this country, director Mohit Suri’s projects are fairly progressive in this context. Even though there’s no (sane) script to ever speak of, and even though music, rain, snow, dramatic sprints in rain and snow and Arijit Singh takes turns to replace actual writing, he always makes sure to generously include a screenplay and dialogue credit. Ironically, in his films’ cases, nobody would bat an eyelid even if his stars were given an additional-screenplay credit. It is completely believable. And here I imagined that no self-respecting writers would want to willingly take the credit for adapting Chetan Bhagat’s literature.
It is about a Bihari prince named Madhav Jha (Arjun Kapoor), who speaks broken English in an accent that sounds more like it has been developed by a Juhu activist to mock Maharastrian extremists averse to the influx of migrants. He is an ace (quota) basketball player at Delhi’s posh St. Steven’s College. He falls for the super-rich Riya Somani (Shraddha Kapoor). They spend a lot of time playing basketball with greater authenticity than Rahul and Anjali ever did.
I’m a little worried that if I start dissecting the logical loopholes of Half Girlfriend, my words will be unceremoniously cut short by the brooding Mohit Suri Symphony Orchestra faster than a technical Oscar on primetime television. I’m also worried that it will start raining and Emraan Hashmi will appear out of nowhere and ask me to pucker up.
Jokes aside, let me tell you about Half Girlfriend. It is about a Bihari prince named Madhav Jha (Arjun Kapoor), who speaks broken English in an accent that sounds more like it has been developed by a Juhu activist to mock Maharastrian extremists averse to the influx of migrants. He is an ace (quota) basketball player at Delhi’s posh St. Steven’s College. He falls for the super-rich Riya Somani (Shraddha Kapoor), who also loves basketball and can say the name ‘Kevin Durant’ with a straight face. They spend a lot of time playing basketball with greater authenticity than Rahul and Anjali ever did.
Riya also loves getting drenched in the rain in varieties of skimpy dresses (The Wet Collection?) because I can only assume she loves Aashiqui 2. She loves singing and playing the guitar, too, because I can only assume she loves Aashiqui 2. She soon agrees to be his “half girlfriend” – a term that can only be the brainchild of the book’s esteemed author who was once a frustrated male engineering and MBA graduate. No relation, of course.
But there is intricate depth and layers to Riya’s character. She has commitment issues because she is a poor little rich girl. She only uses music as an escape, you see. Her father beats up her mother every night because I can only assume they love Hamari Adhuri Kahani – a film that pivoted on Vidya Balan’s incessant tears and sobs for being stuck in such a god-awful film. Madhav attends her birthday party at a mansion filled with high-society North Indian snobs who speak like cultured extras on a British zombie movie.
Madhav is provoked by his Bihari roommate and best friend Shailesh (Vikrant Massey) to sleep with her in order to earn full loyalty. Massey, a fine actor on his day, wears the expression of a distrustful man who seems to be scheming against everyone that contrived to put him in this half-movie. In actuality, he is only (intensely) looking out for his naïve pal. Madhav mistreats Riya, who then decides to leave college to get married to one of the aforementioned zombies.
Most of this happens over one song, or one broken into many parts, or maybe two songs. Time passes. Arijit sings. Madhav mourns for three years, graduates, goes back to his village, helps his mother with social work, bumps into a divorced Riya in Patna while he is there to win funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to incorporate female toilets in his school so that the girl child studies too. He also takes an opportunity to mention the government’s ‘beti bachao beti padhao’ initiative in order to acquire a free chit from the sanskaari Censor Board.
Riya coaches him in English so that he can make a grand speech to Gates. One of the genius co-producers (Bhagat) must have come up with the idea of digitally superimposing Gates’ real face into this scene. To be fair, the film is big on brand placement (Close Up, Make My Trip – who could now lose many loyalists). As a result, Gates looks like a ghostly hologram that has escaped from a subversive Vikram Bhatt supernatural erotic horror drama.
Madhav’s mother (Seema Biswas) meanwhile threatens Riya to stay away from her son because – you know what? It doesn’t matter. This is the mother whose trademark line to her son is “haar ko harao”. Defeat defeats? This made me want to abuse abuses. Let’s just say I began to predict coincidences even before they happened towards the end, which made me horribly worried that I’m on the same page as Chetan Bhagat. Or perhaps I just stopped trying, which explains why our thoughts matched.
I wish I could say that Shraddha Kapoor’s porcelain-doll presence matters. Or that Arjun Kapoor matters. But none of this really matters when their director has forever been trying to establish a Guinness record for the world’s longest music video.