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Monday, May 12, 2008

He’s back

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On the silver screen Chetan Bhagat believes in giving complete freedom to those adapting his books to different media .

Chetan Bhagat, like another famous novelist insists he is not in the Shakespeare stakes. The other novelist was Ian Fleming and he created James Bond. Chetan is also responsible for a seismic shift in Indian writing in English.

With “Five Point Someone” a coming-of-age novel set in IIT, Chetan opened the floodgates and soon the market was inundated with bildungsroman.

Chetan followed “Five Point Someone” with “One Night at the Call Centre”. Chetan has moved back to Mumbai after 12 years in Hong Kong and continues with his day job as investment banker while putting final touches on his third novel, “The Three Mistakes of my Life.”

In Bangalore for good friend, Shinie Antony’s book launch, Chetan took time out to talk about books, films and coming home. Excerpts.

What is “The Three Mistakes of My Life” about?

Like the tagline says, it is about cricket, religion and business. While the book is more serious compared to my other two novels, the time-pass element is very much there.

It is light treatment against a serious backdrop. The book tells the story of three boys in Gujarat who decide to start a sports shop.

Any particular reason for setting the novel in Gujarat?

Gujarat is the only State where businessmen are considered ideal husband material. Salaried people are looked down upon because they work for others.

Also I felt I had to earn the title of youth writer. Both “Five Point Someone” and “One Night at the Call Centre” have a cosmopolitan look and feel. The themes they tackle are also rather urban and elitist. I wanted to broaden my base, to do something different and talk to youth across the country.

I think the ‘60s-to-‘80s generation is boring and intolerant. The generation before that were very cool as they got us Independence.

I think a lot of our problems are because of the Doordarshan generation ruling the STAR TV generation. We need a revolution. There is always a refresh button on the browser.

Considering you are tackling serious issues, are you nervous of the reception?

Actually I was more nervous about “One Night at the Call Centre. This book has a positive buzz. The advance reviews have been good. We have a 200,000 advance order.

It is all happening. I am in the middle of promotional activity. We just launched the web site. I am convinced we are onto a good thing.

What made you return to India?

Well, the country has given me a lot and now it is time to give back. I just like India, it is as simple as that. Yeah, living is easier in Hong Kong. Like just yesterday the maid had malaria.

I thought all these diseases were eradicated. Everyday is a challenge and everyday you have something to be thankful for. But that is perfect for a writer, there is so much fodder for further plots. The other thing is my three-year-old twin boys were the only brown skinned children talking in a Chinese accent which was quite freaky.

When are the books going to hit the screen?

I have written the script for “Hello” which is based on “One Night at a Call Centre”. The film, directed by Atul Agnihotri, will star Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif. Rajkumar Hirani, who made the Munnabhai movies is making “Idiot” which is inspired by “Five Point Someone”.

What is your take on film adaptations of books?

I write for passion unlike some writers who write for ego. For the screen adaptation, I have given the concerned people full freedom. Even Nikhila who adapted “Five Point Someone” for stage had complete freedom to do what she wanted. “Idiot” stars Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor. We all know Aamir does not take up rubbish projects and I respect Raju’s work. You should have confidence in the people who are putting Rs. 30 crore into a project. I do, and I am here to help.

How about your readers who might feel upset with how their favourite characters look on screen?

It is all open source programming. I would like to see a different take on my work.

Is this a good time for Indian writing in English?

You tell me. I know I am not the greatest writer ever. I believe that you cannot call yourself an Indian writer unless Indians read you. Everyone tells me I should get a foreign agent and publish abroad. I think a brown clap is the same as a white clap.

Posted by Bookworm at 1:43 PM |


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