Almost every book of the Indian author Chetan Bhagat has been turned into a feature film and it has now become a trend of sorts. Adding to that is the second collaboration of Arjun Kapoor with Chetan Bhagat after he played the protagonist in their much successful 2 STATES. HALF GIRLFRIEND yet again is a romantic drama but this time, the subject deals with the changing definition of young relationships. Will this film manage to retain the success quo of the duo or will it fail to match up to those expectations, let’s analyze.
The story starts off with Hindi medium educated Madhav Jha (Arjun Kapoor) entering the prestigious St. Stevens College in Delhi where he meets the modern and English speaking Riya Somani (Shraddha Kapoor). As they bond over basketball and explore the bylanes of Delhi during their college days, Madhav falls for her despite the constant warning from his friend Shailesh (Vikrant Massey). When he confesses his feelings for her, Riya decides to take their friendship a step ahead but afraid to give it the title of a relationship, she decides to be his ‘half girlfriend’. However, after a spat between the two, Riya avoids Madhav only to later hand him the invitation card of her wedding with her childhood friend Rohan. While the news leaves Madhav shattered, he decides to go to his hometown where he takes up the task of improving facilities at his mother’s school. He once again comes across Riya, now a divorcee, who helps him in his endeavor but soon disappears again from his life with a letter of confession about her love for him. Despite his repeated attempts, Madhav fails to track her down and decides to fly to New York which as confessed by Riya was the place where she wanted to fulfill her dream to become a singer. Yet again, swamped with love, Madhav decides to hunt her down in New York with a new determination of reuniting with her forever. Will he succeed in his attempt and find true love, is what the film is about.
In a bid to redefine modern relationships, HALF GIRLFRIEND tries to explore a concept that is a tad bit confusing in its own way. Besides that, unlike 2 STATES that clearly defined the quirks of two different communities, the script of this film looks half-baked. While the makers continue to claim the film to be a ‘romantic’ drama, let us tell you that the explanation of ‘half girlfriend’ continues to remain ambiguous even as the film ends.
Furthermore, the screenplay written by Tushar Hiranandani is way overdramatized for the young Indian audience and that is the biggest flaw of the film. The screenplay fails to keep the audience engrossed in its entirety. Though the story is coming of age, adult romance, the romance shown between the lead characters is not effective and entertaining and does not keep the audience engaged as it should. There is hardly any scene in the movie which establishes an emotional connect or touches the chord of your heart.
Add to that, most of the drama that unfolds on screen is all about assumptions. For example, when Riya talks about her failed marriage, it is much more of a conversation between two characters. This to some extent makes the audiences feel even more disconnected with the characters and their emotions. The lead characters also lack depth. At the same time, the portrayal of constant problems surrounding them, leave an impression of the characters being disillusioned owing to their ever complicated lives.
The second half of the film seems overly stretched, especially towards the climax. Despite the fact that the run time is hardly about 135 minutes, the proceedings come across as exhaustive testing your patience and therefore fails to create the desired impact. What also add to the woes are some unbelievable scenes like that of Bill Gates. While the VFX team has attempted to create the presence of Bill Gates in the film with special effects, they fail terribly, so much so, that the otherwise heart-touching scene comes across as a frivolous comic one.
Considering that the film falls under the romance genre, it rides on the shoulders of Arjun Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor. However, the most important part of the film, their chemistry or rather the lack of it is one of the most disappointing aspects of the film.
Coming to performances, Arjun Kapoor manages to sail through his role as a Bihari boy but owing to the flawed script and screenplay, he gets very little scope to perform and his expressions are limited. Shraddha Kapoor lacks conviction as she tries to play her character who is a cross between a basketball player and a singer. Her lip-sync is off track when it comes to Riya singing the English numbers and a strong contradiction of her voice that can be sensed when she sings English and Hindi songs is a mood-killer. On the other hand, supporting actor Vikrant Massey as Shailesh does a decent job and other characters like Seema Biswas take the film forward.
Mohit Suri’s films are known for its soulful albums but it seems that HALF GIRLFRIEND lacks melodious tracks. ‘Baarish’ attempts to break through the chartbuster list but otherwise the music is strictly situational. Despite five musicians like Mithoon, Rishi Rich, Farhan Saeed, Tanishk Bagchi, Raju Singh coming together, the music is quite disappointing. ‘Phir Bhi Tum Ko Chahunga’ and ‘Thodi Der’ along with its English version are constantly used in the film as background score, which gets annoying after a point.
The dialogues written by Ishita Moitra are extremely dramatic and too filmy even for Bollywood. The editing by Devendra Murdeshwar too could have been a lot crisper considering that there were many scenes that could have been done away with it. Cinematographer Vishnu Rao doesn’t do anything to improvise the situation either.
On the whole, HALF GIRLFRIEND comes across as an overtly dramatic piece of cinematic work that fails to create the desired impact. At the box office, it will struggle to survive post the opening weekend.