Half Girlfriend feels like a half-baked romance; who's to blame - Arjun, Shraddha or Mohit Suri?

Abhishek Srivastava

May,22 2017 14:34:31 IST

It’s often said: don’t judge a book by its cover. The adage also applies to films.

Trailers, songs, actors or the director should never be the benchmark to judge a film. I judged Half Girlfriend by paying a visit to the nearest PVR and it wasn’t a case of ‘I came, I saw and the film conquered me’. I found Half Girlfriend a half-baked case.

Here are a few disclaimers right at the beginning: I have spent my formative years in a zone not far from Madhav Jha’s birthplace in Bihar. My journey too has followed a similar trajectory  - college in Delhi and falling in love, while at college. The only difference was that unlike Madhav Jha’s character, I was part of the slightly distant, cloistered and somewhat self-indulgent JNU. Nonetheless it gives me some authority and freedom to find parallels in Mohit Suri’s film adapted from Chetan Bhagat’s bestseller.

Shraddha Kapoor and Arjun Kapoor in a still from Half Girlfriend

Shraddha Kapoor and Arjun Kapoor in a still from Half Girlfriend

The characters and the milieu in the film reek of multiple concoctions and go in different directions. It is this cascading effect which gives a serious jolt to the film, which otherwise could have been a winner.

Mohit Suri has made a mockery of the concept of cinematic liberty by taking it a notch above the prescribed limit. With all due respect to the acting prowess of Arjun Kapoor, he is miscast as Madhav Jha. When you lose faith in the protagonist, it could only be a stretch from there. Think of the accent that Irrfan Khan mastered in Haasil, Pawan Malhotra in Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro or even the Winchester College educated Saif Ali Khan in Omkara when he mastered the profanities of western Uttar Pradesh.

Recall the scene when Arjun Kapoor’s character is in conversation with the local MLA of his hometown. It’s also a scene that exposes Madhav Jha’s character and shreds its authencity to pieces when it comes to the local dialect. It’s the dialect of Madhav Jha versus the dialect of the local MLA.

Arjun Kapoor looked the character when he played a Punjabi in Abhishek Varman’s Two States but in Half Girlfriend every time he mouths his dialogues, he seems to be in choppy waters.

Madhav Jha’s character is someone who is a student of Sociology at the reputed St. Stevens College (wonder why the name St. Stephens was not used despite showing the same campus building). He's seen chilling in his dorm room, drinking beer and rum with his fellow Bihari friends and playing basketball in his free time.

However, the fact is, students of St. Stephens (who hail from Bihar) spend most of their time in other college campuses where the ambiance does not reek of elitism. The film fails utterly on this count.

The answer to all such questions lies in this small little word called ‘milieu’. There have been films in past that have hit the bull’s eye just because the milieu was right despite flaws in their narrative. I won’t waste time mentioning such films but I will certainly mention here another film, which released alongside Half Girlfriend. Hindi Medium captures the same milieu of Chandni Chowk and other parts of Delhi to the T while Half Girlfriend totters and fails miserably.

Half Girlfriend and Hindi Medium. Images from Firstpost

Half Girlfriend and Hindi Medium. Images from Firstpost

A reputed college campus is more like a meeting (and mating) ground of the youth from cross sections of society. Half Girlfriend does this half-heartedly. The students’ look more like extras and it seems the only instruction given to them was to criss cross the campus as many times as possible. Half Girlfriend has treated this aspect of student life somewhat superficially; reinforcing the fact that milieu has heavily been compromised.

Numerous love stories blossom in colleges of Delhi University but the nurturing never happens on top of India Gate or ‘Privee’. Remember the sequence from Two States, where the protagonists gorged on Biryani at a non-descript restaurant? This film too dealt with two students in love at the IIM, Ahmedabad.

2 states

Alia Bhatt and Arjun Kapoor in 2 States.

Had Mohit spent some time in Bihar even before the recce of the film, it would have helped him in opting for the right characters.  The issue that plagues this film is that it does not come across as a love story, which has oodles of yearning involved. It looks contrived, soulless and haphazard. You only feel for the characters when they are true to the setting and to the milieu and Arjun Kapoor’s inaccurate accent makes a royal mess of it.

Having read author Chetan Bhagat’s earlier works, I am yet to be amazed by the power of his pen. But literary power apart, Abhishek Kapoor in Kai Po Che and Raju Hirani in Three Idiots did full justice to the milieu that was sketched in the pages of 'Three Mistakes of my Life' and 'Five Point Someone'. Half Girlfriend doesn't respect its milieu.

Last heard, the film made good money at the box office in its first two days. I would really like to know who is the real star here? Is it Arjun or Shraddha or Mohit or Chetan? The curiosity might just kill me.

Updated Date: May 23, 2017 09:24 AM