My first encounter with Chetan Bhagat’s writings was in mid 2006 when I accidentally found “One Night @ The Call Centre” in one of my friend’s room. At that time, I did not know who Chetan Bhagat was, his illustrative IIT & IIM background and the fact that this was his second book. I picked it, went through acknowledgments and finished the book in 5 hours. Next day, I parted away with 100 bucks from my meagre pocket money and bought “Five Point Someone” and was done with it in few hours.
As per the introduction, Chetan left his high paying investment banking job in Hong Kong and took his first love as his bread and butter- writing. For me, as a 19 year old college student, this was as fascinating as it could have got. You always look for inspiration and idols around you; something that will kick start you. Chetan, if not an idol, was certainly an inspiration. Not that I wanted to write and be a writer but it was more about to be an endeavour for not becoming a typecast.
Moreover, the intro also said that he wants to change the youth of India and to get the best out of them. His writings were to change the people who read it; to rethink what they have been doing and can they make it better? He wanted to inspire the young ones. As I mentioned above, I was certainly hooked to his books. They had nothing fancy in them but addressed the young readers in a way they felt associated. I still recall that I was a bit angry at many things after “One Night @ The Call Centre”. Agreed that the God in that book was superlative fiction but I believe that much of a liberty can be given to a writer.
His books started a trend and every college kid wanted to get published. In my 4 years of college, commuting from Dehradun to Meerut and vice versa; I read about 50 of these books. Not that I liked them but at that time, that was what I could have afforded to kill time in a bus. All by college students and passouts, ex engineers and MBAs, trying to write what they thought was a bestseller. 1 out of 10 was OK, some were manageable. And majority was too bad that I cursed myself for buying them. I very clearly remember I read a book “20 & Still Virgin”. The book had grammatical and spelling errors and I won’t even talk about the premise of the book. Such crap.
The point here is- Chetan had started what he wanted. He was making teens think, to come up with what they think. Many chose books; some debates. Chetan Bhagat was, in his own little way, starting to change India. His books were selling like hot cakes. Although his reputation did take a hit with “Three Mistakes of My Life”; he more than made up for it with “2 States” (for me, his best book till date; humour and satire in ample dose). His books were now coming as 70mm cinema. Sharman Joshi starrer “Hello” started it and although Amir Khan and Rajkumar Hirani will never admit it, “3 Idiots” was loosely based on “Five Point Someone”. The filmmakers never gave this credit to Chetan but the audience accepted (or assumed) it. Life was good for him. What can go wrong?
Well, many things. It is little hard to believe that an intellectual being like Mr Bhagat could make bad decisions and that too when he has done almost everything right. His next book “Revolution 2020” was a strange one. To be honest, I don’t remember what was exactly in it. What revolution the author was talking about- if you find out, be kind enough to let me know. The book looked more of a rip-off from some old Bollywood drama.
That was year 2011. In between, he turned into a screenplay writer and watched his “Three Mistakes” and “2 States” as “Kai Po Che” and “2 States” respectively. Being a huge fan of the book, the movie was such a disaster that I suddenly disliked the big screen. What was a pleasure to read was a pain to watch. And to top it up, I bought the tickets in black. What a waste.
Year 2014 just shooed away whatever good I thought about him for two reasons. He co-authored the screenplay of Kick. Now, writing screenplay for your book is very OK but to write for a Bollywood movie which had no brains in it is a very different thing. What are the odds that if movies like Kick, Ready, Ek The Tiger etc would have been 5 years back, he would have been criticising them in his TOI columns for being such a nonsense and that they are telling nothing useful to his ‘young Indians’? Fast forward to 2014 and he writes one of those senseless script, movie is a 200 crores grosser and he goes home with a fat pay check.
Second reason- when I read his latest release “Half Girlfriend”. The moment I finished it I knew this would also be turned into a movie. The truth is that the book is written in such a way they he knew it would soon be turned into a movie; he wanted this book too on the big screen. Unlike other books of his; this book has so many coincidences which our Bollywood will perfectly digest and there won’t be any need to make changes. In earlier movies, screenplay is not as exact as the book. They have removed/ changed a lot of things to make it commercially viable. Half Girlfriend is a perfect recipe for a movie. And as I have read, Ekta Kapoor has already bought rights to create a motion picture on the already half baked Bollywood screenplay. Talk about creativity.
In 4 years, Chetan Bhagat became something from nothing with his honest but straight forward and captivating writing. Next 4 years, after establishing himself and making his name, he wrote Half Girlfriend and Kick, both of which he probably would not have written and seen in his college days because of the crap they serve.
The great irony. The great circle.