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‘Half Girlfriend’: Chetan Bhagat’s Cheap Pot-Shot At Young Love, Again?

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By Sohini Ghosh:

So, the connoisseur of Indian love stories with the oh-so-tasteful dramatisation is back at work again, this time taking the avatar of a so-called ‘Half Girlfriend’. As perplexed as this title leaves me, it has undoubtedly latched onto the imagination of a major chunk of the youth, looking for a quick fix of cheap literature. Who cares for quality literature when there is a proud bearer of a legacy unmatched in Chetan Bhagat A.K.A the Yash Chopra of our Indian literature, painting mustard fields for our wayward romantic daydreams and raunchy fantasies to play out with much abandon?

chetan bhagat half girlfriend

Half is the new full? What does the title of his 7th novel even signify? Can we actually address someone as half girlfriend? As Chetan Bhagat has always been a serious trendsetter, there is an extremely high probability that this new jargon would catch up too, as soon as the book hits the shelves in October, if not sooner. He has been an iconic figure in his proclivity to propagate a sea change in India’s reading culture, but that has been at a cost. When ‘Five point someone’ and ‘One night at the call Centre’ had been published, I clearly remember how popular it became among my classmates and contemporaries courtesy the explicitly choreographed sexual exploits. It was the first time that a subject of such taboo had been made available for the masses and the scavengers that we are, we took the bait. Hook, line and sinker. People took to reading like the fish takes to the water and the bird to the sky. And mind it, for the ‘non-literary’ people, reading soon comprised of Chetan Bhagat, a little more of Chetan Bhagat, and some more of Chetan Bhagat.

No sooner was the announcement made public (Times of India being the good Samaritan, it did not escape us what you did there), the social network was thrown in a frenzy, perhaps synonymous with the icons similar to KRK or Honey Singh’s stature, each taking to their wittiest best garb. ROFLIndia took to twitter opining:

This doesn’t even begin to describe the plethora of tweets one would come across. A few of the precious best have been summed up here.

He is one of those authors who write a story so paltry, as common as a common cold and yet never fail to churn them as a bestseller. The secret perhaps lie in the common teenagers’ woes so lasciviously woven that Indian adolescents can connect with so effortlessly. This management graduate had found the precise nerve to hit on for the young, almost pubescent India back in 2004 with his first book “Five point Someone”. It is often a no-brainer as to what the story would be about. A girl. A boy. A chance encounter. Awkward moments. Soon turns to Lots of love (LOL). Truckloads of obstacles (often includes a second guy or some parental figure). All obstacles miraculously taken care of. And voila, they lived happily ever after!

It is a quick fix like M-seal and while all those who are reading his work often condemn the standards, they themselves are unable to resist from indulging in a little double standard and good old guilty pleasure every once in a while.

While we indulge ourselves, there is this bespectacled guy spinning moolah oh-so-green with book and film royalties feeding on our need to be optimistic. And if that wasn’t conspicuous enough, he decides to show solidarity for our fellow beings who have been friend-zoned so conveniently (the colloquial term as it is) by titling his next as the ‘Half Girlfriend’. I can’t fathom here who it reflects more poorly on. Him, and his increasingly manipulative efforts while taking cheap pot-shots at young love – something he trivialises or chooses to desensitise in this time of over-sexualisation, particularly with respect to India, Or we, the readers who encourage him and his rather warped imagination to spin more of such mind-numbingly repetitive stories.

He has come a long way from his IIM days, but his writing, at best, is ordinary. And ordinary is in! As a writer, he works on a well built PR-machinery, as could be seen from his marketing strategies, and capitalises on the latest fad of books being adapted to films. He would have chosen better had he taken up script writing professionally, because more often than not, it almost seems that he writes while keeping the plot of a film in mind.

We have to admit though that despite much criticism and ridicule, here is one guy who has stood the test of time and as much as we would love to be polarised on his writing skills and the ancillaries he surely knows, ignoring him would be a hard task, a fact that he regularly banks on.

You must be to comment.
  1. Anonymous

    You are no one to say it for everyone! Also, this page should at the end write that, all views are personal. Not everyone keeps the same point of view. Shamful, Youth ki Awaaz!

    1. Sohini Ghosh

      I completely agree with you when you say that but then again no one page can voice the opinion of 1.23 billion people of a country. The views expressed are bound to resonate with a fraction of that figure, not only for this article but perhaps for every article you would find on any page at any given point of time.
      Thank you for reading though. 🙂

  2. The Joker

    One reason why Chetan Bhagat is famous is because he has talent and ability, perhaps a little more than YKA authors who indulge in bashing the author because it makes for good publicity. Furthermore, writing for a common audience, Chetan Bhagat does not feel the need to use ‘big words’ to show-off his vocabulary, unlike other writers and bloggers in India. He does not write proclivity but tendency, does not say imperative but crucial, does not use callous but cruel, etc.

    1. Sohini Ghosh

      The assessment of talent and ability I believe are being spoken in subjective terms here and of course you are entitled to your opinion with all due respect. However, personally I believe that at the end of the day there must be some kind of purpose that we seek- be it learning something new, creating something new or simply ideating and it is with the same one, i have failed to learn anything fruitful or hold onto something tangible from his books(His editorial columns are rather well analysed I must admit though). But then again that could be my disability too. It all lies in the perception.
      As for the usage of ‘big words’, contrary to how quite callously you remarked, callous and cruel hold rather different meanings(simply citing an example here) and hence for this precisely same reason there is perhaps a need to expand the vocabulary to provide the correct contextual meaning many a times. ( which in no way can or should be confused with the act being one of ‘show-off’). 🙂

  3. Jigsaw

    Sohini, your education has turned you into a conceited person who fails to see the truth. For years you have been reading Chetan Bhagat while pretending that you must only read quality literature.

    Are you going to continue indulging in false vanity or brush aside prejudice that you have so emphatically soaked in?

    The choice is yours.

    1. Sohini Ghosh

      I am not sure of the allegations that you choose to make but frankly, I don’t see any pretense involved here. I hence fail to see the ‘false vanity’ that you so blatantly accuse me of indulging in. But in true spirit of reserving our own opinion I value that perspective that you have tried to put across.

    2. Jigsaw

      Sohini, are you going to continue to attack a personality because he does not fit your criteria of a good writer or will you aspire to be like a man who has appealed to the masses with his simple English, this enabling him to connect to a wider audience?

      Make a choice.

  4. Mahitha Kasireddi

    I thought this was a book review, but this is review of the author! I totally acknowledge that we all have the freedom and choice to dislike/despise/dismiss a book, but criticizing the personality of the writer is something really mean. Argue on the content of the book, that’s a constructive way. I myself would not recommend people to read some of his books which are so cliched. For many days I was a proud Chetan Bhagat “hater”, but today as an aspiring author I don’t see any positive light in disrespecting a writer. Also, this article has said really too much way ahead of the book to be released, may be people would appreciate if this was written after reading the book.

    1. Sohini Ghosh

      Totally, I do get your point here and it isn’t as much about disrespecting as it is about mentioning few lacunas his earlier works have repeatedly reminded us of. I don’t intend to disrespect or criticise the person personally. I have simply tried to add my perspective with respect to his writing style and subject, irrespective of whether i failed in that attempt or otherwise.
      Thanks for the read though. 🙂

  5. Shivam Singh

    Chetan Bhagat has a deficiency of Innovation. His fictions are nothing but masala Writing

  6. Salman

    He’s comparable to Salman Khan in a lot of aspects. Both don’t deliver on the quality front, but know exactly what appeals to the masses. They are still artistes, but more than that, they are excellent marketers. Their massive fan following is also something to be envious about.

  7. Garima

    Finally, someone has the good sense to vent out my feelings about Chetan Bhagat. There are a few reasons why he’s so popular: (i) For this generation which define everything “Typos” – this guy is the ultimate idol with his equally nonsensical English (the reason he’ll never ever get a Booker’s nomination in this dimension!) (ii) Affordable priced books with certain er..rr… sexual moments (iii) his book caters to the typical Indian taste ( just like their taste for bollywood movies & soaps & serials) : stupid, giddy-headed, full of over-the-top masala moments . I love my country but there is seriously something wrong with the target audience here…. Hopefully this will change.

    1. Jigsaw

      Garima, it is not so much about winning a Booker’s nomination as it is about winning hearts. Your self-righteousness has caused you to become a bitter person, overlooking the good in others and indulging in criticism.

      Will you continue to let your perception of others affect your soul or will you learn to let go?

      Make a choice.

    2. Calling You Out

      Jigsaw: You are an asshole. Other people are entitled to voice their opinions as much as you are. Instead of asking people to “make a choice”, why don’t you just respect what they say and move on if you don’t agree.

      Get over yourself.
      Make that choice.

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