Planning to watch Half Girlfriend this weekend? Here's our review.
Desi babu sees Angrezi-speaking babe in college. It is one-sided love at first sight. He impresses her with his basketball skills and then wants more than just friendship. Girl, though fond of him, is a girlfriend with her own terms and conditions. She runs away so boy runs after her - in Delhi, Patna, Simrao, New York. One wonders he could have been a better sprinter.
Author Chetan Bhagat's bestselling novel seeks to make its leading duo, Madhav Jha (Arjun Kapoor) and Riya Somani (Shraddha Kapoor), one to root for. Only instead of using #mfeo you are likely to use the roll your eyes emoji on innumerable occasions in Mohit Suri's listless and mawkish adaptation of the book. Or just laugh out loud for all the wrong reasons such as when the digitally morphed face of Bill Gates imposed on a body appears on the screen. Or you could repeatedly fist pump as two twenty-something girls seated next to the reviewer did, mocking the couple's proclivity to do so at every opportunity given.
There is nothing fresh or entertaining about the college romance that brews in St Steven's College in Delhi (We're guessing Riya and Madhav wouldn't make the shortlist for THE St Stephen's). Madhav comes from Bihar and isn't well-versed with spoken English. Riya is a member of a high society Delhi who has a "messed up family". They may be poles apart socio-culturally and economically but sport is enough to bring them together. The tiring first half sees the duo going on a Dilli Darshan - metro, Humayun's Tomb, India Gate, Hauz Khas to name a few - with Riya turning singer to escape the blues and Madhav being a toothy cheerleader. In Delhi parlance he'd be called a chape. The spoilsport here apart from Riya's privileged background is Sailesh (Vikrant Massey), Madhav's friend who spends the first half that he is not up her alley and that he is being taken for a ride.
Ballads touted as trump cards in Suri's musical love sagas here only slacken the proceedings. Madhav and Riya are thick friends over the course of a song. It's a different matter that we never quite understand why Riya ditches her friends to hang with Madhav. Suri's tropes are now getting dated and repetitive with repeated shots of Shraddha Kapoor jumping and smiling, all too reminiscent of her in Aashiqui 2 and Ek Villain. Another frequent collaborator screenwriter Tushar Hiranandani takes an all-too-familiar love story courtesy Bhagat and fails to add any zing to the proceedings. Instead we get half-baked commentary on Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao and the sanitation drive of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan which is conveniently forgotten by the good Samaritan of a hero to explore the bar scene in the Big Apple.
Arjun Kapoor's earnest and labored performance to pass off as the Bihari collegian persistent to get a Dillilwali girlfriend is limited to his broken English and accent. Shraddha Kapoor is convincing as the PYT who never has a bad hair day but far less as the young woman with "issues". The talented Seema Biswas is wasted as Madhav's two-faced mom who is progressive enough to welcome girls into her school but conservative to judge a woman on the basis of her failed marriage. The endless, soppy romance gets the only workable twist in the too brief cameo in Rhea Chakraborty whose charming presence left us hoping that Madhav would have a change of heart. But that would require deviating from Bhagat's plans, impossible given he is also the film's producer.
Neither a compelling tearjerker nor an epic contemporary romance, Half Girlfriend is definitely not the film to celebrate modern love.