Book Review – Half Girlfriend – Chetan Bhagat

There is nothing right about this book. Chetan Bhagat has done a great disservice to the society by merely writing and publishing this purest form of crap.

half_girlfriend

Warning: There are spoilers in this review but I strongly recommend that you read the review and skip the book.

I was beginning to defend Chetan Bhagat in my discussion groups. So, needed to remind myself why I hated his writing so much. There are many faults in this “bestseller” and we need to address the issues one by one.

There are people who say that the man must be doing something right because he is selling books. Well, it is no rocket science. Earlier it was about marketing and branding of the product. Now he has stopped giving two hoots. He isn’t even a marketing genius anymore. He just celebrates mediocrity. He represents mediocrity. And I say “mediocrity” for the lack of a better word. The man talks about how all women are so mysterious. How it is difficult to figure out a woman, how she says one thing and does another. He gives us these tricks: to gain her affection, one must act aloof. That is 20% of his novel. The inner ruminations of a man who doesn’t think of women as human beings but targets to be achieved.

And the defence that he says it through his characters doesn’t hold any water either. It is not the characters. If you haven’t understood it yet, the man isn’t very smart. He isn’t writing a character, he is being witty and insightful (or trying). He says it through Madhav Jha in this book but you know he has said this before. All his male characters, all his newspaper columns – reek of this filth.

If you still don’t believe me, read his nonfiction. He writes “advice” to women. He tells them to not worry about not being able to make four dishes for lunch. He says one dish would do. He establishes the gender role while playing good cop. You don’t even know what it does to the female mind that takes him seriously. He is telling you that your job IS cooking. But it is OK to cook less dishes, just go to the kitchen alright.

His advice to working women is that if they feel underappreciated at work, they should feel free to quit their job and search for a better boss. See how delicately the surgeon has removed the blame from a sexist boss and established patriarchy? For this very reason, his newspaper columns are malicious in intent.

He talks of men and their libido. One can smile approvingly at the first time (Five Point Someone) because it feels like a satire. But when you read it over and over again, you realize that there is something wrong with the author himself. He doesn’t say it in a farcical tone anymore. He means it.

He is trying to reach out to the masses, yes. But not with a good purpose. I didn’t say “no purpose” because this is where it gets bad. Bhagat definitely writes with a purpose – a purpose to preach. He wants to bring about a change. And he thinks it works in his favour if he speaks the language that people understand. More often that not, the language is laced with misogyny, misandry, classism and other vaguely established social evils.

He pits women against women. Even when they are independent, high-minded, well-educated women – they have to be jealous of each other and psychotically possessive of their sons and lovers. The America-born Jyoti who is also an investment banker is also a nagging wife. Because hey, that’s something common with all women, right? The cardboard characters work well with the masses. The sex-hungry male in this novel, too, can be a portrayal close to the masses. But, then the same male is given altruistic qualities and is painted as a lover. And the girl is also shown as someone who wanted his love all this while. And this is where Bhagat, unknowingly, becomes a malicious human being. Forget the novel, the man isn’t right in his head. He isn’t sensitive enough to handle these issues. And then these books get translated to other languages and are read worldwide. Essentially, this man is representing India on the World map. His soft propaganda is about hero-worship, subjugation of women and contorted ideas of love.

Remember the crusade against sexism in Hindi films? Well, think of this book and Chetan Bhagat ‘s “literature” in general as an extension of that sexism. The worst part is, his books are selling. So it isn’t his fault completely. Until YOU as a reader spot his bluff, we’re stuck with His Royal Highness Madhav Jha and rich girl who is OK with Madhav’s sexual assault but isn’t OK that her virginity is the only thing Madhav wants. We are stuck with Madhav’s royal mother who is otherwise progressive, runs a school on her own but thinks of her son’s friend as a girl who has thrown a Mayajaal on her poor little son.

We’re also stuck with the idea that if you’re writing a Bihari male protagonist, you have to give him some royal blood. Otherwise, he can’t be the “hero” and one can’t justify the character’s altruism. Also, Bhagat paints the whole Bihar in one brushstroke. Inelegant and crass are not just the qualities we can associate with his male protagonist. It’s Chetan Bhagat’s writing overall.

One more addition to the point I am trying to make: The book is about a Bihari boy who is creepy. He sexually assaults a Delhi girl because he feels she is acting pricey with him. And the climax of the story is the guy finally hunting down the girl in New York and having sex with her. Yes. the sex scene marks the end of the story. And the girl was abused as a child. Chetan Bhagat gives zero fucks about the girl’s psychological buildup. To him, she is just someone who cannot trust easy. So, the guy has to try extra-hard. The struggle to get the girl to trust him is Chetan’s idea of true romance.

And to prove that Bhagat isn’t telling a story but is sincerely of the belief that THIS is true romance, we have two girls in the novel, Jyoi and Samantha telling Madhav that any girl would be lucky to have a lover like him. A lover who would search frantically for the girl he has always lusted for by running down New York streets and creepily calling every place she could have been to.

Oh, and if even that doesn’t convince you that Bhagat is a rotten human being, sample this – the girl Riya always wanted to have an apartment in New York and sing in a small bar there. She achieves just that. And Madhav, the hero that he is, goes there, rescues her from chasing her dreams happily. The novel ends with the girl coming to a village in Bihar with Madhav and serving rotis and carrots-and-peas sabzi to guests. Happily ever after, right?

Hoping for a Chetan Bhagat-free world someday.

0 stars out of 5

Advertisements

8 comments

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s