DNA | Last Modified - Oct 31, 2011, 11:01 AM IST
By Chetan Bhagat
Chetan Bhagat’s latest novel is not, as the title suggests, about a revolution. It’s the story of a love triangle, set in the time of engineering entrance exams in Varanasi.
Gopal, the narrator and son of a poor school teacher, gets into trouble the first time he meets Aarti. He steals from her lunch box on their first day in class V, and she complains to the teacher. He apologises to her, and the two become friends. Well into their teens now, Gopal realises that he loves Aarti. He tells her, but she rebuffs him.
Meanwhile, Gopal and his friend Raghav are both preparing for engineering entrance exams, though neither really wants to become an engineer. Raghav wants to be a journalist while Gopal just wants to be rich. The former gets into Banaras Hindu University (BHU). Gopal, on the other hand, doesn’t score enough to make it to any decent engineering college, and his ailing, out-of-work father borrows money to send him to take coaching classes in Kota. When he returns to Varanasi a year later, Aarti is dating Raghav.
After failing to get admission in an engineering college, Gopal, with the help of a corrupt MLA, starts his own engineering college on his father’s farm land. Raghav, who graduates as an engineer, takes up a job as a reporter for a local newspaper. Gopal, now a corrupt director of an engineering college, is pitted against Raghav, the idealistic reporter who wants to bring about a social revolution by the year 2020.
Revolution 2020 offers a glimpse into the entrance exam coaching-classes racket, how money is made off gullible hopefuls, and how so many private colleges have mushroomed — a number of them on farm land — all over India in the last decade.
The writing is pedestrian, and the dialogues, cheesy —probably because they’re directly translated from Hindi. Sample these: “Love is what your parents give you if you clear the IIT exam” and “As I tried to escape, one of Sri Ganesh’s goons pushed me. I fell face down… Blood covered one side of my face. Sweat drops appeared on my forehead. I had finally given my blood and sweat to studies.”
Gopal, Raghav and Aarti are caricatures: Gopal, the poor little dumb boy becomes a corrupt college director; Raghav, the talented engineer, is a journalist with a heart of gold; and Aarti, the pretty daughter of an army man, falls for the idealist, and when he’s broke, realises she always loved the engineering college director after all. The only thing that makes the book readable is the fast-paced story. It is loaded with scandal, sex and corruption, as a pot-boiler should be.