Sunday, August 10, 2014

The One and Only Chetan Bhagat

I am one great admirer of Chetan Bhagat (CB, as I fondly call him). What an achiever, what a writer! He is such an inspiration for me. 

Now, I do know that there have been great writers in the past, before CB. There is Leo Tolstoy, Ernest Hemingway, G.A. Kulkarni, Mahashweta Devi, to name only a few. But you know, a closer study shows that it was not so difficult for them to become successful and bestselling writers. All these writers had one common thing, which gave them an undue advantage. All their books had good stories, great narratives, with strong characters and deep insights into the lot of human beings. Now what’s the big deal if these guys ended up selling a lot of their books?

But CB… Ah! CB is the master. For his books have taken over the markets and the minds without the aid of artificial crutches like a good story, in-depth characters and such paraphernalia. 

Before I go further, I should make a confession, a disclosure here. I have not really read any of the books written by CB. Well, at least not fully. I have Half-Read one of his books. (Wasn’t that prescient of me, to say Half-Read?). His first book, Five Point Someone, was based on life in IIT, which I already knew about, being an alumnus myself. So I skipped it. But I did see the movie. The first question that came to my mind as I finished watching 3 Idiots was “So, who are the other two?” The first, obviously, being me”. (See here for a more detailed account.). As you can see, I have this habit of not understanding great works and end up asking very basic questions after reading or seeing them.

CB was a bestselling author by the time his second book, One Night @ the Call Centre came out. So I decided to read it. I read about 30 pages, before giving it up. My friend told me that I did not “understand it”. Ruefully, I agreed. I know I do miss out on great books because I do not understand them and I give up on them after reading some pages. I left Being and Nothingness after about 80 pages, and could make it to 227 with Catcher in the Rye. Surely, One Night… must be a much more difficult one, for I made it only upto 30 pages. 

CB smiling and walking all the way to the bank.
Pic Caption: Blog Author)

Author of blog (me) looking wistfully at CBwalking
all the way to the bank.  Note use of binoculars as the bank
is very far from me.

Then came The 3 Mistakes of My Life. To my great delight, I realised that this was one book I definitely understood. It was an autobiographical account. I mean, the title itself was so obvious. The first mistake was clearly Five Point Someone, the second mistake was One Night… and the third was a self-reference to itself. I thumbed up my nose at friends who had told me I “did not understand”. I was right, they were wrong. Here was Chetan Bhagat himself acknowledging his three as mistakes. To my surprise, the “mistake” was also a bestseller. But then, I told myself, so are so many confessional novels. 

But apparently, CB decided to keep making more mistakes. So 2 States followed. I don’t know how many people realised CB had used this title to project a secret message. (Just like all the ancient writers, painters, sculptors do, as anyone with reading of historical texts like Da Vinci Code would know). I mean, the ordinary reader would just take the title at its face value – two people from 2 states, their marriage and so on. But it’s really an insult to believe that a master like CB would write something so mundane, so ordinary. I explained the deeper meaning to my friends. CB, I said, knows exactly what he is writing. And he conveys that through his titles. (Remember the 3 Mistakes title?) Now look at 2 States. Didn’t you realise that it was totally different from CB’s titles till then? Think. Till this book, all of CB’s titles had odd numbers in them! Five, One, Three.  So why the sudden shift to an even number? Clearly, CB was sending us a signal to look deeper. I did. Now, any student of physics knows that there are three states of matter, not two. As an IITian, CB knows this. So why is he making such a basic mistake? Well, he is not. Through the title, two states he acknowledges – solid and liquid, and the book itself represents the third – gas! Wow, isn’t CB the master of secret signals?

This was proved once again when Revolution 2020 came out. Again, CB sent us a secret message through the title – that we will have to wait for 2020 for the revolutionary event – a CB book with a proper story, in depth characters and other such things. But wistfully, I saw that before that real revolution, other smaller revolutions have kept taking place, namely, the accumulating bank balance of CB!

But now he has surpassed himself with Half-Girlfriend. Even before the book is out, there is a tribute to him that has rarely been paid to any author. A full page, a full front page ad in leading newspapers. Now that’s something that only masters can achieve.

That is why I have always been an admirer of CB. And I have my own way of paying tribute to him. As they say, one of the biggest acknowledgements of achievement is envy. I not only envy CB, I am insanely jealous of him. Since many years, I have tried to emulate him, to reach the heights (and the bank balance) he has reached. But alas, it has not worked. 

Not that I have not tried. I have written so many books (manuscripts, really) which have been just like CB’s. In fact, I have the rejection slips to prove that they were so – publishers telling me that my manuscript was “fluffy”, had “no story”, had “superficial characters” and so on. But I guess one needs to be a CB to carry such things. It’s true, some things need the person of that stature to carry them. Remember Shammi Kapoor and his antics? Now, if any other actor had tried to do the same things, he would have been booed out. But Shammi the master, he carried them on his shoulders with great élan and to great applause. 

So I guess it’s not enough to write books of such type to be successful (meaning sell many, collect bank balance). One has to be able to carry it too, and for that, one has to be the Master himself.

So that’s it. I have to be resigned to my fate, that I will never be CB, or even like him. 

Come to think of it, may not be so bad after all…



I wrote this blog on 10 Aug 2014, and it was titled अगले जनम मोहे चेतन भगत किजो (Let me be Chetan Bhagat in my next birth). However, at that time I was not aware of Bhagat’s tweet in which he supports Israel’s attacks on Gaza and calls the Palestinians terrorists. This is completely unacceptable, and therefore, even in jest, I would not like to use the title I have used. Hence, I have changed the title of this blog post, and also changed the few last lines.


Matangi Mawley said...

May your wish come true!

Anonymous said...

The world can only handle of that kind.

Kitu said...

This was a good understanding of CB!! I find the picture of you looking thru binoculars hilarious as I know what you want to convey!!!


KhushV said...

Hahahahahahaha, fantastic blog! A great read.

Rajiv Shah said...

Lovely blog, indeed!Would like to share it...