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    Tuesday, 14 October 2014

    Half Girlfriend book review: Chetan Bhagat




    Chetan Bhagat is out with his newest work, Half Girlfriend. The movie was up for its Bollywood adaptation by Ekta Kapoor and directed by Mohit Suri, even before its release. Can’t say much about the filmi adaptation yet, but here’s our take on the book…
    What’s it about?
    Madhav, the male lead, is from a royal-but-no-longer-rich family living in a village, Dumraon, in Bihar. His sports merit gets him a seat in one of the posh colleges of Delhi but he is low on confidence owing to his almost nonexistent English speaking skills. Here he meets Riya, a rich, sophisticated Delhiite. The two are fond of each other but Riya is not ready for a relation and so insists on being his Half Girlfriend. This would entail everything except physical intimacy. Bhagat chronicles the journey of Madhav and Riya, taking you on a bumpy roller coaster ride, with an end that’s anything but unpredictable!
    What’s Hot?
    To start with, I must admit that Half Girlfriend is a definite improvement in terms of the style of writing and manner of narration from all Chetan Bhagat books so far. The present-past-present format has worked well in an otherwise predictable story. The first chapter opens in the present day and grabs your attention. Thereafter, the story goes into flashback. A lot of mystery is created around the character of Riya by giving it a baggage of hidden past (her being hateful towards her family, the truth behind her failed marriage, etc.) which is merely hinted at until the right moment. The highlight of the book is the way these secrets are revealed through journal entries. Another plus of the book is that the story is divided into different acts and in every act, the first person voice belongs to a different character (the first act is narrated by the writer himself who does a cameo in his own story, while the second act is narrated by our hero, Madhav). This has to be a first with Mr Bhagat since experimentation is not his thing.
    What’s not?
    Though the book is much better than his previous body of work in terms of language and style of writing, Chetan Bhagat has once again proved his mettle as a script-writer for a Bollywood masala movie and not as a novelist. His immensely-beautiful-girl-and-highly-simple-boy fixation continues through all his books, including this one. And as always, we are reminded of the girl’s beauty at least once every page. For once we’d like the formula reversed Chetan. Though the book starts with an interesting take on things, the story soon gets repetitive to the point that I actually thought at one place I was reading the same scene I had read a few pages ago. We get it that the non-quitter attitude of Madhav had to be brought out but there are better ways of doing it than insisting upon kissing every time the girl comes close to you. Anyone who has read Gone With the Wind and remembers Scarlet O’Hara will probably understand what I mean. After the yet-another-college-love-story we finally come to the most interesting part of the book- Riya’s journal entries- that fill in the missing pieces of the jigsaw. And you’d think it was the best way to finish the book with an open ending by merely revealing the truth and leaving it to the reader to decide what Madhav does next. But you’d be much mistaken in thinking that because the story will go on for another 50 pages telling you exactly where Madhav goes next . How innovative? (Pardon the sarcasm). And how can we miss the sleaze-line in vernacular dialect- deti hai toh de, warna kat le; a specialty from the House of Bhagat. What literary experience? (Sorry can’t rein in the sarcasm).
    Verdict:
    If you’ve liked Chetan Bhagat’s previous work, you’d probably love this one. For others with a superior literary taste, please read it as script for the next Bollywood chick-flick to be produced and marketed by a studio wanting to make a quick buck at the box-office.
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    Item Reviewed: Half Girlfriend book review: Chetan Bhagat Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Daljit Kalsi
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