Chetan Bhagat’s latest book Half Girlfriend has hit the stands amidst news about filmmaker Mohit Suri has already bought the rights. As per market’s response, Half Girlfriend is selling like hot cakes. Novels like Five Point Someone, One Night at a Call Centre, Three Mistakes of My Life, 2 States and Revolution 2020 have already been appreciated by Bhagat’s ‘young readers’.
Bhagat, an IIT-IIM alumnus, has never ever failed in brilliantly marketing his books. With Half Girlfriend, the tradition is carrying on. Along with an extensive array of marketing and publicity events for the book before its launch last month, the title’s crudely titillating effect also forces many to pick up a copy. Even though there has already been some feminist outrage over that, as we begin to read we realise Bhagat simply repeats his standard settings – a college, common activity (in this case, basketball) and a girl. Like in all of Bhagat’s other novels, the protagonist, a man, suffers from a lack of self- esteem. Like in most other novels, the girl he chases is beautiful, talented and we are given the impression that she is too good for him.
The protagonist, Madhav, hails from Bihar, the most reviled of Indian states, and stereotypically the most backward. He meets and falls in love with a beautiful elite Delhi girl. Delhi girls, by definition, are all beautiful, fair and wear short clothes. Bihari boys are closet chauvinists who freak out when denied sex, and hurl choice, crass abuse in Bhojpuri. Thus, Bhagat manages to reinforce another stereotype about India and Indians.
‘Educated girls don’t want to date a guy who doesn’t speak English and this is what I have tried to bring out in my novel,’ he had said during a lecture at his alma mater IIT Delhi last week. It has created a furore on social networking sites.
The entire story seems as if you are watching a three-hour Bollywood movie of late 90s, though there are some contemporary references which keep the story of current times. Besides, Bhagat also wants to prove the point that a country bumpkin from the ‘worst’ state in India can end up with a very rich, very beautiful, very ‘modern’ girl from the most sophisticated college in Delhi. Though one can easily point out the similarities in most of Chetan Bhagat’s books, there are some stark differences between Half Girlfriend and the likes of Five Point Someone.
With Revolution 2020 and Half Girlfriend, Bhagat has tried to weave stories not exactly related to his own life as he did in other novels. The earlier books were readable because most were based on Bhagat’s own life experiences. He could relate to the matter and hence expressed it better.
After the best-selling author revealed that the rights have already been bought by filmmaker Mohit Suri, reading the book makes it clear that the writer has weaved a story with efforts of making it a selling-point for Bollywood. By expressing it in the simplest English, Chetan has also tried his best to expand its horizon. In fact, he already has made it clear that he wants to cater to the needs of Hindi-speaking English readers who live in small cities and aspire to read English novels.
Though many criticise him for his style of writing and many more may even undervalue him for writing only one kind of novels, still Bhagat has succeeded in casting the widest net as far as ‘literature’ in India is concerned. Bhagat wants every slum-dweller in the country to be able to read his book one day, and emphasises how he doesn’t want to repeat himself as an author with his novel.
Most of Bhagat’s other books held a lesson or moral for everyone to follow, however mediocre the expression was. Half Girlfriend is devoid of such moral teachings. This is not to say that the book is an immoral piece of work - just that it’s a rambling love story lacking in in any ‘higher’ purpose. One thing that can be said about Half Girlfriend is that it is much more readable than Revolution 2020. This may be ascribed to the Delhi connect, which appeals to the Indian metropolitan crowd, and the stereotypes of Delhi women and Bihari men which everyone seems to love reading and assimilating into their minds. Of course, there’s the fact that Bhagat again manages to satiate the Indian appetite for dreamy, mushy romance. And sex.
With no use of literary terms, or cultural mentions, such as of Delhi’s elite and Bihar’s background, Bollywood-like storytelling and the protagonist’s unending urge to get physical, Half Girlfriend is sure keep up the interest of young readers. As always, the price of the book has also been kept low (Rs 176) with a well-planned idea of reaching more hands. The cut-throat competition among online retailers has even made the book still cheaper.
It’s available for just Rs 99 with no delivery charges! Indeed, this piece of half-literature is guaranteed to achieve full success.