Mohit Suri has become the new-age romantic director of Bollywood. All thanks to his musical hit Aashiqui 2, followed by Ek Villain. While his films are about unrequited love and longing, he presents emotions like nobody else in his generation. So what made him pick Chetan Bhagat’s book, Half Girlfriend, to make into a film as his latest venture? Speaking exclusively to indianexpress.com, Mohit spoke about the film, his love for Shraddha Kapoor and why he did not allow Arjun Kapoor to read the book.
“Ever since Aashiqui 2, I have been enjoying this space of making romantic films, but not the ones that are only thrill and floss but have some emotional connect. So when I read Chetan’s book, I wanted to make a movie about it. Rather than making a love story about some people living abroad, I know my Indians, I know my people and that’s what I feel more comfortable making,” Mohit said.
The film’s tag line “dost se zyada, girlfriend se kam” has been making waves among the younger audience. But Mohit refuses to call his film about being friend-zoned or friends with benefits. “I don’t think friends with benefits would exist in our India today. There is nothing sexual about it. This line from Sooraj Barjatiya’s Maine Pyaar Kiya – ‘ek ladka aur ladki kabhi dost nahin hote’, that was somewhere more than a relationship of a friend. When Chetan named it ‘half girlfriend’, he gave a name to this relationship,” he said.
Arjun plays a Bihari lad who lands in Delhi for his higher education. But his lack of fluency in English becomes a hindrance. Mohit explains how the character is actually making fun of the typical English-speaking generation.
“I am actually making fun of English audience, because they are all adoptists, because in India if you speak English you will get a better future and you will go way ahead in life. This is a colonial hangover that has not left our country,” explains the director.
The film’s poster and trailer showed landmarks of Bihar including the Gol Ghar and the Gandhi Setu. While Mohit said they did shoot in real locations, he also agreed that some portions were recreated. “We have shot in Patna. We have shot in real locations. Some of the things you want to fictionalise for the film, like the small town was fictionalised. The Ganga Setu I got, the boats and banks I have used. We have also got few shots of litti chokha in Patna’s Maurya Lok market.”
Half Girlfriend is Mohit’s third outing with Shraddha and the first one with Arjun. “Shraddha was an obvious option, but I am not denying the comfort level I have with her. We have known each other for five-six years, we have developed a bond which we cannot break. But more than anything else, she gives the space that a director wants. Every day when I come to the set, she is like an open clean slate and I can just write on it. The thing about Arjun’s character is that this is the first time I am dealing with a character that people already know about. So I have dealt with him with a little more heart and he is someone who does have the never-give-up spirit, whether it is going for the girl, or whether it’s about building bathrooms for the girl children,” Mohit said.
Half Girlfriend is the third major release which will face the challenge of making its way amid the ongoing tsunami of Baahubali: The Conclusion at the box office. Sarkar 3 and Meri Pyaari Bindu which released last weekend sank without a trace already. So is Mohit bothered?
“Anyone who says that they are just excited and not anxious and scared is lying. You cannot deny that Baahubali 2 is there and even Hindi Medium is releasing on the same day. You would want all the competition to be perfect for your film. But mainly I want the film to be liked. It’s a film with a big heart, rather than a big budget, so I think I am looking for that,” Mohit shared.
Mohit is currently judging television dance reality show, Nach Baliye 8, which had Chetan Bhagat on the same chair in its previous season. So was there any advice Chetan gave him? “He just said have fun and don’t say no to anything. Television is a new thing for me. So I am really enjoying that. Also I really like chilling with Bharti and the stuff she keeps pulling on me. It’s great fun.”
So while he is seen judging the “romance wala dance” on Nach Baliye every weekend, how romantic is he in real life and what’s the most romantic thing he has ever done for his actor wife Udita Goswami? “Damn don’t say this… My wife doesn’t think I am a romantic at all.”