Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Book Review: Half Girlfriend (by Chetan Bhagat)

(Buy online Here)

Oops....he did it again!!! Chetan Bhagat's latest could easily be another Hindi blockbuster. Hardly surprising for a guy who is quoted to be the largest selling English language novelist in Indian History. He thrives on mass appeal. Something which the Dan BrownsJeffery Archers and the Sidney Sheldons lack. They do not touch the soul of the Indian reader simply because the plot, the settings and even the English is so alien. Bhagat has his finger on the pulse of the average Indian who just like Madhav, the lead protagonist, thinks first in vernacular and then translates it into English. Akin to providing the proverbial icing on the cake, he intersperses English with Bhojpuri, sometimes even crass stuff like 'Deti hai to de, varna kat le'.

The story which moves between Delhi, Bihar and New York, is a poor boy meets rich chick plot with a very realistic twist. "Rich chick falling for a poor guy?? Dude that happens only in our Hindi movies". A standard reaction. But what makes this convincing is that the chick, who is portrayed as being commitment phobic, does not fall for our poor Bihari guy until the end. She agrees to be his half-girlfriend but no more. The reason behind it revealed much later. For a story that is largely narrated in flashback, Bhagat maintains a good grip on the plot.

The main protagonists meet in college as teenagers. Their love for basketball brings them close but their bliss does not last. Both take off their separate ways to pursue individual dreams but destiny has other plans for them. They meet after three years, both older and wiser. Only to be separated by another twist of fate. They meet yet again in the climax, this time to end up together.

The book has quite a few sparkling moments including one when Madhav, the Bihari guy who has always nursed a complex about his English, delivers a speech (a section of which is impromptu) in English in front of Bill Gates and bags a grant from the Gates Foundation. Both the leads are flesh and blood characters who have 'hatke' dreams and are not afraid of pursuing them.

Bhagat has fleetingly touched upon a lot of sensitive topics including child abuse, marital abuse and secondary status of the girl child in society. But in typical Bhagat style, he does not dissect them. No intellectual reflections. No philosophical views. Highly recommended (even for those folks who rather prefer his movies)!

If you have any reservations about Bhagat's English which sounds rather juvenile given his pedigree, read this article (click here). English elitist's eat your heart out. The rest of India is catching up and how.

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