Monday, December 22, 2014

Half Girlfriend (novel)

"...a simple and beautiful love story that will touch your heart and inspire you to chase your dreams." - Goodreads

Before starting the actual review, I just want to clarify that I am not one of those 'I hate Chetan's stories' guys. I really enjoyed reading Five Point Someone and 2 States. There has long been a criticism that Bhagat unnecessarily includes social problems that are not related to the core of the novel. I do not agree with any such statements because it is his style of writing. None of us question Dan Brown for going into the intricacies of Roman Architecture, or criticise Khaled Hosseini for elaborately describing the beauty and nature of Afghanistan. Ultimately they intend to make the readers aware of these details, so does Chetan Bhagat. However, lately he seems to have forgotten the most essential part of a novel - the story. Story is the most attractive element of a novel that drives the reader to immerse and grasp the intended message. When the story is repetitive, monotonous or predictive, the novel fails, as happened in the case of Half Girlfriend.

A Bihari boy, Madhav Jha, gets admitted into the prestigious St. Stephen's College and befriends a rich Delhi girl, Riya Somani. He falls in love with her, she agrees only to be his "half-girlfriend", his lust betrays him, resulting in "half-break up". She discontinues studies, marries a rich family friend and moves to London. With a broken heart, he follows his dream and starts running a school in his hometown. She gets a divorce, flies back to India, meets him, helps him, but disappears. He finds her journals, searches for her, finally finds her in New York. They live Happily Together.

On the positive note, the story deals with the characters we see in real lives. Chetan Bhagat writes in a simple and understandable language, that can easily reach Indian masses. Within the story line he has beautifully highlighted some of the social problems like the class disparity of Indian society, regional differences, false pride of high society, child abuse, corruption in politics, etc.

Half Girlfriend is more of a movie script than a novel, to the worse, it is an half cooked one with loads of logical flaws. There was no real necessity for Chetan's presence in the story. Why would the lead character bring his dead girlfriend's journals to a writer, whose novels were read by him for the sole purpose of learning English? Wouldn't he want to know what his girlfriend wrote before dying? A guy, who tried to decode her every expression during each moment together, who had clinged on to the past for two years by thinking about her everyday, yet is not curious about what she has written in her journal. It doesn’t seem realistic. Riya cuts off from the world with utmost perfection, but forgets about her journal! These logical flaws clearly shows the lack of caution and realism from the author's side.

The intent to weave social issues inside the story is appreciable, but real content is missing. Neither the causes for class disparity, overemphasis on English, false pride etc., are explored, nor their effects are discussed. Author could've done some research and given attention to the deepest intricacies of the problems. Without doing so, the intended effect - reaching the readers, is not possible. Given the experience Chetan had in writing relationship stories, the whole novel should have taken a maximum of three weeks to write. One surely can not expect better reviews for such minimum input.

This disastrous failure clearly shows that time has come where Chetan Bhagat should stop writing relationship stories - he has written six such novels including Half Girlfriend. With the reach he has achieved through his first few novels, he can directly deal with social issues, not under the cloak of love stories. His fans deserve better novels, not half baked film scripts.

Half Girlfriend - deja vu.

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