Chetan Bhagat: “People are so commitment phobic nowadays”

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The first adaptation to his book ‘2 States’ (2014) became a huge success and now author Chetan Bhagat is gearing up for a second adaptation to another one of his novels, titled ‘Half Girlfriend’. Directed by Mohit Suri, the film stars Arjun Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor in the lead roles. BizAsiaLive.com  caught up with Bhagat when he was in London recently to talk about the film.

You came up with the term ‘Half Girlfriend’ to describe the scenario between the two main characters in your novel. How did you arrive at that term?
I’ve observed a lot of young people, that’s how I write my books; by observing. And I saw that there’s a lot of confusion, like you’ll have a lot of people who are a little more than friends but they’re not really in a relationship. They share a special bond, but they’re not really in a relationship. And I can tell that’s it’s clearly a little more than friends but a little less than a girlfriend or boyfriend. So I that let’s keep it simple and have something called a ‘Half Girlfriend’.

The setting of your story is in India. How do you think the international audience will relate to that?
I think international audiences also have this thing a lot. People are so commitment phobic nowadays (laughs) that they are all now looking for half girlfriends and half boyfriend’s only  (laughs).

How far do you think Arjun and Shraddha have fit into the role?
Arjun and Shraddha have done a pretty good job. Arjun has already done one of my adaptations, ‘2 States’ and he understands the kind of characters I create being from middle class, India: a representative character. And Shraddha has worked with Mohit before.

Did you have much input when the film was being made?
Yes, I’m one of the co-producers of the film this time. So I’ve been more involved than my earlier adaptations. I’ve been on set everyday, involved in discussions with the director, with the screenwriters and things like that.

Do you hope that the film strikes any particular chords with the audiences?
Yes I do. There are two main things I hope; one is this whole ‘half girlfriend’ in between sorry of relationship. The other is that the boy doesn’t speak English, and he’s judged for it. That’s a big thing in India. India liberalises and integrates with the world. A lot of people want to ride up, and have aspirations. But if they don’t speak English well, the get judged for it. And I think that’s my main character, Arjun’s character, is that. Obviously in the trailer he is unable to speak in English. That’s the main reason why, the girl is a little reluctant to be in a relationship with him, because he comes from a different class, There’s a lot of people like that in India. I’m a little more sensitive, to people who are still now as confident in their English, I think that will help.

You said you had conversations with the makers of the film. How did you find working with Mohit Suri?
I think he’s great, he’s one of my closes friends now. He’s very easy going, doesn’t have much of an ego and he takes input from everyone on set. Even the assistance, and junior assistant directors, he’ll take everyone’s view. Especially younger people because, he’s making films for younger people. He’s very passionate about of course making the film, but particularly about the music.

Do you have any particular favourites in the album?
Well I like all of them. I’m listening to ‘Thodi Der’ right now.

Is there any one song you could say right now, that represents the story in particular?
If you have to say one song, then I would have to say, ‘Phir Bhi Tumko Chaahunga’ I think.  That I will still love you, that kind of unconditional love song. Because there when Arjun’s character Madhav comes from a rural area, for him he doesn’t understand these concepts of half-girlfriend, and you know the “I’m not really there yet”. If he likes someone it’s love and love is forever. That’s how he is.

Any final thoughts for those thinking about watching the film?
We have a unique combination at this time of May, because of Ekta Kapoor who is a leading voice in India, who understands India well. We have Mohit Suri who has done a lot of successful films and is known for his music, and me who is the writer who brings in the story element to it. So I think it’s backed by a lot of people who are strong on content and people will have a great time in the theatres.

‘Half Girlfriend’ is set to hit the big screens on 19th May.

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