Chetan Prakash Bhagat (46) is an Indian author, columnist and also screenplay writer. He was never interested in writing till his late teens. He got his B.E in mechanical engineering from IIT Delhi and completed MBA at IIM Ahmedabad. He worked as an investment banker for a long time till his books became bestsellers and started bagging money considerably higher than the amount he earned from his full time job. Then he resigned from his banking post and started taking up writing as his main career. His debut novel was Five Point Someone. This novel was rejected by various publishers over two years before publishing by Rupa Publications. The manuscript went through editing and as required changes were made, it finally hit the store shelves in 2004 and it was declared as a best-seller. This marked the beginning of Chetan’s era, his second novel quickly set a record for India’s fastest-selling book. He has written 8 novels and three non-fiction books so far and sold out 7 Million copies of his books. And 5 of his novels have been adapted into bollywood movies, and he worked as the playwright in some of these movies. But why do a lot of people despise his work, especially the ones in the literature sector? Read on to find out.
Like how Virginia Woolf calls literature the freest of all professions in Professions for Women, Chetan Bhagat also says that writing is a flexible career which “you can do… anywhere”.
Reading requires a lot of practice, it’s not everybody’s cup of tea. Reading being a habit that you need to learn and develop, for a very long time I believed it wasn’t for me. And when I was around 15, the buzz for Chetan’s 2 States echoed almost everywhere I went. Everybody talked about it. So, I picked my first book up on the fear of missing out, but never thought I’d read it so ardently. Now after reading quite a few different spectrums of authors, I agree that Chetan’s books are not the kind that glorifies literature. But that doesn’t change the fact that I enjoyed reading him.
He writes what sells. He has understood the Indian literary scenario and worked on developing a strong fan base among the teens. I really like how simple his english is, I wouldn’t have completed the book then, if he had used a high profile diction. You need the right audience to appreciate an impactful, heavily artistic theatre performance, because a layman wouldn’t understand it’s elements and may even find it boring. Likewise, if you need to attract simple people, you write using simple vocabulary and entertain the readers. Reading his books feels like entering another world but there’s no much difference from the reality, the characters speak like how I do, no complications or whatsoever and it feels like a story that could be mine. Another important factor is the cost of his books. They’re really cheap. You could buy a new copy for 120 bucks on Amazon. It’s a perfect choice for a decent gift.
Chetan’s stories are prompted from his real life incidents. His first novel Five Point Someone is about life in IITs and 2 States reflects life in IIMs, which means he’s displaying the lives of 50,000 students graduating out of these institutions every single year. This makes his novels very relatable to the youth as they connect and identify with his characters. No wonder he understands the marketing strategy on selling his stories, he graduated IIM with top grades. He knows what he’s doing and whatever he has been doing so far has not let him down.
His stories are very fun. Boy and a girl from different states meet in college, fall in love, fight together against opposing families, drama, drama, drama, and happy ending. I know this sounds like every other commercial movie, but if that is what the audience want, then just go ahead and give them that. Chetan has carefully spiked in family emotions, ambitions, friendship, romance, comedy, heartbreaks, literally everything that a young Indian adult goes through into his book. A perfect masala entertainment for I-need-to-know-what’s-happening-in-my-neighbor’s-life and pass-opinions-about-it kind of Indian households, which is actually the majority here.
I would wholeheartedly give Chetan the credits for making me a reader which has now transformed me. I really liked One Indian Girl, apart from the nasty feminism, it sure was empowering.
People very often, almost everywhere say art has no rules. ‘You do you’ is printed recklessly on the internet now, no matter how simple your art is, no matter how straightforward and effortless your work looks, it is still your art, be proud and own it. I’ve been coming across artists sharing posts like this on social media platforms. And I think thats exactly what Mr. Bhagat did and now everybody says he has committed literaturicide, murder of literature, that he has dirtied the whole of writing community. Why? Because he’s successful. We never thought something as simple as that would become a bestseller, and now we’re just disappointed in ourselves for believing in this for so long. Chetan has his way of writing, it’s not great but it is what that entertains and makes it into the cart of people. Let’s normalise commercial writing. We need to study and understand that too. You bend your art to serve your desires and your consumers needs.
I would also credit Chetan for proving to us that writing is another profession like any other job out there. When he started, not a lot of people thought they could earn a living through writing.
If you sensed sarcasm anywhere, that wasn’t intentional. His new book ‘One Arranged Marriage’ is going to be a sequel of his previous book, and the reviews so far are good.
Tell us in the comments about your experience reading Chetan Bhagat, or about other authors you would like us to write about. : )