Ever since I saw that my good friend Dr. Ryan Fernandes had put up a very good question in the IndiSpire section of Indiblogger.com, the question being:
What makes Chetan Bhagat so popular? What do the other lesser known talented Indian writers need to do to get the same recognition?
I knew I had to write something on it. But, I was in a fix as I couldn’t gather words to explain Chetan Bhagat‘s immense popularity. The simple reason for this conundrum was that I despise him and writing about him isn’t an easy task for me! I’ll tell you why by sharing a small anecdote which happened today and gave me the right impetus to pen this blog post!
One of my cousin sisters has recently been bitten by the reading bug. A few days back, I found her reading “It Started With A Friend Request” by Sudeep Nagarkar. Sudeep who? I asked myself. Never heard of him. When I did some background research on the author, I found out he is another Chetan Bhagat on the rise. I found his writing and stories amazingly similar to the love tales spun by Bhagat. Today, when my cousin sister returned home from school with a set of novels in her hand, I rushed to see what they were. She had told me in the morning that there was a book fair at her school and she wanted to purchase some good novels. You know, she bought an entire set of Chetan Bhagat books, including his recently released “Half Girfriend”. Good novels? I wanted to facepalm myself right there!
More appropriately, I got the answer to Ryan’s question mentioned above. Chetan Bhagat is popular because kids of the modern generation are more exposed to Indian authors, precisely the upcoming authors who have switched to the writing profession from some other work. Chetan Bhagat is popular because he writes reality, things which a common Indian can relate to and experiences in his or her daily life. A huge percentage of Indian readers of the 21st century have come to believe that he has brought a new wave of literature in India, when quite a lot of Indians like Jhumpa Lahiri, Amitav Ghosh, Vikram Seth, V.S.Naipaul etc. had already ascertained their place firmly among readers a long time back, much before Chetan Bhagat had penned his first book. I find it extremely funny and frustrating at the same time when my cousins or most kids in my town do not know about J.K. Rowling or Enid Blyton; they say they have not heard about Famous Five series or Nancy Drew or Dan Brown. All they sing is that Chetan Bhagat is their favourite author and they love to read his books! I pity them, seriously, for I had grown up reading those books I can proudly claim that I have experienced a rich diversity of literature and continue to read different books.
Alright, I mean no offence to Chetan Bhagat. Of course, he has made India read again. That is commendable. But, I am upset with him for he has influenced the little minds in a very uncomfortable manner. His books no doubt serve good stories but the ingredients he chooses to write them are totally unacceptable to a certain extent. I have read all his books and only “Three Mistakes of My Life” actually made some sense to me as a touching story. All other books were based on college-life romances and were replete with cuss words and slightly vulgar undertones. You can not imagine the horror and the terror I went through while reading “Half Girlfriend” after completing one of the most beautiful novels ever written i.e. Khaled Hosseini‘s “A Thousand Splendid Suns”. I consider Chetan Bhagat’s recent book as his worst creation as the first 40 percent of the book seemed to derogatorily highlight the word ‘Bihari’ many times and the protagonist’s ‘hunger for kisses‘. Isn’t that vulgar? More so, I found his English quite ludicrous here compared to his previous books. When spoken English (like ‘Please say no!‘ “You’ll go with me, no‘) is inserted in a vast amount in a novel, the story usually loses its charm. May be I feel so for I have read more books by established veteran authors whose English is impeccable and elegant.
I just hope Chetan Bhagat moves away from college-life romances for a while and write stories about several other facets of human life. I am sure he, being such a famous author, should be already working on his next novel and hopefully, it will surprise me! As for the other upcoming Indian authors, they should stick to their own originality and not follow anyone. Everyone has their own style of writing and if they do their job with honesty and conviction, they’ll be as successful as Chetan Bhagat. No doubts about it!
Disclaimer: This post only expresses the opinion of the author and does not intend to offend Chetan Bhagat or any other person.