While making a film out of a book, the filmmaker and the screenwriter spend a good amount of time deciding what should go into the film and what should be kept out. '3 Idiots' and 'Kai Po Che', spawned out of author Chetan Bhagat's novels, were highly memorable films. While the former took the basic idea off the book and had a largely different plot, the second had a screenplay which took the written material in the book several notches higher. 'Hello' was a forgettable affair and '2 States' was good but not as entertaining as the book of the same name it was based on. 'Half Girlfriend', an adaptation of Bhagat's fifth fiction novel, is co-produced by the author, Ekta and Shobha Kapoor's Balaji Films and director Mohit Suri.
Madhav Jha (Arjun Kapoor), a young lad from Simrao, Bihar gets admission in the prestigious St. Stephen's University, Delhi. Madhav, who struggles with English and is not well-versed with the big city life, gets drawn towards Riya Somani (Shraddha Kapoor), a fellow student who hails from an affluent family in Delhi. Basketball serves as a common interest between them and helps them become friends. Though Riya likes Madhav, for some reason she finds it difficult to commit herself to Madhav. Finally, she agrees to be his 'half girlfriend'. Madhav is happy with the kind of presence he has in Riya's life but he ends up doing something which creates a rift in their relationship. Madhav tries to speak to Riya after the incident but she does not relent. After a couple of days, she informs Madhav that she is getting married to a man her parents have chosen for her and it is time they walk separate ways.
The book, authored by Chetan Bhagat, made for a fairly compelling read. While it was basically a love story, it touched upon various themes and issues like class differentiation, domestic abuse and the various kinds of struggle young people in India go through in their careers and love life. The film quickly rushes through the different chapters in the book without exploring any of these aforementioned subplots in detail. There is no chemistry between the lead pair. Those who have not read the book, might not fully understand what Riya means when she says she can be Madhav's half girlfriend. In the film, it comes across as a random, whimsical thought she puts across in a scene.
Madhav's struggles in a big city, coping up with his unadequaacies in speaking English while studying in a top university, his equation with Riya - had these things been ewxplored well, one would have got to see a very entertaining film on the screen. Madhav's character is not explored to its fullest potential in the film. And Riya is a shoddiy written character with no depth. The reasons behind her going away from Madhav the second time around is not substantial enough. The climax had the potential to be a rousing affair but you do not feel an ounce of emotion when Madhav and Riya reunite. The film has its moments, especially in the first half, when an awkward Madhav tries to get closer to Riya and goes through different kind of experiences while doing the same. A few moments shared by the lead pair make for good watch. The first hour is also filled with some well-written dialogues that bring a smile on one's face sporadically. A couple of songs ("Baarish", "Phir Bhi Tumko Chahunga", "Tu Thodi Der", "Stay A Little Longer") are hummable.
The effort that Arjun Kapoor puts in to underrated the nuances of the character and get the Bhojpuri accent right shows. He delivers quite a sincere performance but his stylish is too upmarket and the character comes across as too sophisticated. Barring the part where he struggles with English, there is nothing that suggests he has come from a semi-rural milieu in India. Shraddha Kapoor looks nice but her character lacks and a lot of things she does in the film seem unconvincing. Vikrant Maassey's is the best performance in the film. He has a well-written part and gets several scenes to shine as an actor. Rhea Chakraborty, in a brief role, shows that she deserves bigger and better parts. Seema Biswas, too, has a brief role to play as Madhav's mother. Anisa Butt leaves an impression as Shailesh's (Vikrant Massey) wife.
I am not a big fan of Mohit Suri's earlier films but one must admit the director he has a bringing out emotions on the screen. 'Half Girlfriend' has a few of such moments where the director shows his flair for emotions but they are few and far in between.