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I would do an item number to reach to people: Chetan Bhagat

Mark Manuel | Last Modified - Jan 07, 2013, 09:31 AM IST

I would do an item number to reach to people: Chetan Bhagat
  • I would do an item number to reach to people: Chetan Bhagat
    I would do an item number to reach to people: Chetan Bhagat

    He’s got another film coming up. This one produced by UTV and directed by Abhishek (Rock On) Kapoor based on his bestseller The 3 Mistakes of My Life. But that’s in February. And there’s time for the release. So when novelist Chetan Bhagat visited us to talk about this film – Kai Po Che – we put him on the hot seat, instead, and directed all the controversial questions at him that he had admirably dodged ever since he became an acclaimed author, columnist, speaker and the voice of Indian youth for national-based issues in the country. Like…

    DB: The New York Times describes you as “the biggest selling English language novelist in Indian history… but Indian literati accuse you of writing to “amass money” and call you the “pariah” in literature…

    CB: That’s not a New York Times opinion – it’s a fact. I’m the biggest selling novelist in Indian history, not the best. I believe the literati here is a high-handed and narrow-minded minority. Every book cannot be compared to Tolstoy’s War and Peace. An Indian company like Infosys cannot be compared to America’s Google… but does that make Infosys a terrible company? As for writing to amass money, I was in a high-paying job already. Had I stuck on, it would be paying a lot more. Writing is hardly the profession to make money. I was in international investment banking… I know how to make money.

    DB: Time magazine says you are among the “100 Most Influential People in the World” but in India it is also believed that your writing serves every purpose but social, political and literary…

    CB: Influential, hmnn… I can be a good or bad influence! I agree, my books are not the kind of literature you read, but I am catering to the highest and untouched database in the country. Few authors make mass contact. But now with my columns and books, I am serving that purpose. I write books that a lot of people like… what more can I say?

    DB: What’s special about your books? Is it the plot? Can’t be the prose, or the style, which literary experts here say is “crap”…

    CB: I know they say my books are “crap”… but the books connect with the people, and my style of writing is very easy, my English is like Hindi – it isn’t a load on the mind. It makes very accessible reading. The Wall Street Journal described by writing like ketch-up. But the thing about ketch-up is that everybody in the world likes it. It’s not Masterchef. It won’t win a Gourmet award. But it’s palatable and it’s staple. All kind of people are now reading my books. For a lot of people in India, it is challenging literature, and my books are used to teach students English. Where? In the Bastar district of Chhattisgarh. This is Naxalite area, and my books are used to teach the tribal kids how to read and speak English. When they finish reading a Chetan Bhagat novel – they understand English, and then they look forward to the Bollywood film, their life changes, they go onto a different level. I would do an item number in a film to reach Indians and teach them!

    DB: Your books appeal more to the technically-inclined than students of literature. Is it because you really “defile literature” and “lower the standards of literary writing” as accused?

    CB: Maybe the technically-inclined are better connected to me because we have similar backgrounds. If I was guilty of defiling literature or lowering the standards of literary writing, as accused, then I wouldn’t be around for so long. I am not only still around but getting stronger. Movies are being made on my books. If I was a fad, then this would have passed on. Longevity is a test. The intellectuals read and like my books and columns. Literature students should do what literature meant them to do – open their minds. Whether people like my work or not, the fact remains that I have made an impact.

    DB: What has your education in IIT and IIM taught you?

    CB: These are institutions of excellence. And the biggest lesson I learned was what a difference excellence, and the commitment of the people in these institutions, can make in education. That culture has remained with me. In my own world, through my books and films, I am committed to excellence.

    DB: You are a youth icon in India but also accused of misleading Indian youth…

    CB: I don’t want to be a youth icon. In India, to be a youth icon means you have to be a role model. That means you have to lead the live of a sant. You cannot enjoy a glass of wine or crack a funny joke. I didn’t apply for this job! And if you ask me to be that, then yes, I might mislead Indian youth. I didn’t ask for this title. Rahul Gandhi can be a youth icon, not me.

    DB: It is felt you are now writing only with Bollywood in mind…

    CB: Not true… but yes, Bollywood is very seductive, it is hard not to fall for the glamour and fame. However, what I am here to do is reach people with my writing… and if I can do that through entertainment, why not!

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