Tag Archives: Chetan Bhagat

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The Hatred for Chetan Bhagat in India

I’ll admit I have hated Chetan Bhagat ever since he chose to become the voice of the generation.

I have lambasted him on my blog a number of times (back in the days when I would wake up in the morning, smoke a joint and shoot off blogs). I hated his annoying, all-knowing attitude, his IIT-IIM White-Lightning face, and his knack of reducing the complex problems of the nation into simplistic solutions reminiscent of Govinda-Kader Khan movies.

And yet, my hatred for him is his annoying public persona, his elevation to some sort of public intellectual on the basis of his novels. Over the years however, I have softened towards the man.

Primarily because in the years since, I have been a struggling author myself. Every year for the last three years, I do acid in the month of January and plan out the book for that year. I spend the next 11 months toiling and wrestling and struggling with that book. I then send it out to publishers in December and get rejected – year after year, every year.

So I get the pain. I don’t condone Chetan Bhagat’s public persona and opinions, but the utter hatred for the man has baffled me.

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I have noticed two distinct traits in how we Indians consume art.

1. Overdose: If something works, there are a hundred clones of that genre. Take for example all those authors who wrote books called ‘I had a love story’, ‘You had a love story’, ‘We all had a love story’, Modi had a love story’, ‘Can love happen  twice/thrice/746 times’.

We take a winning formula and churn it out till we are up to it in our necks. That is the

reason why Shah Rukh Khan still plays a lovelorn romantic hero. It is the reason why our singers spend their entire lifetime singing a particular kind of songs. It’s the reason that as a nation (with all our diversity and languages), the only kind of music we have is film music.

2. The phenomenon of ‘too massy’: If something becomes too popular (meaning it seeps past the urban minority and reaches out to Tier-II, III and rural areas), it is considered crass and distasteful. This happened to Govinda’s movies, Comedy Nights with Kapil Sharma, and Reliance Jio.

In a nation that suffers from a crippling inequality of wealth, anything that is consumed by the masses is automatically assumed to be cheap and crass. The same happened to Chetan Bhagat and his books too. Till about 2008, he was being hailed as a game-changer, someone who finally spoke the language of the masses, about issues that a newer India could relate to. But as soon as he become a nation-wide phenomenon, he was deemed too ‘low-market’. 

Most people I meet actually don’t hate him for his opinions, but for his writing.

These are mostly urban, elite, youngsters who were brought up on Hemingway and Prost, and grew up to echo the opinions of everybody else around them. 

I don’t even know where to begin with this argument. Writing, like any other art form, is highly subjective. There’s no real saying about what’s good or bad. Some of the greatest literary epics – from Grapes of Wrath to Moby Dick to A Catcher in the Rye were panned by critics and readers.

This is even shocking in a nation like India where knowledge of English Literature is a direct reflection of the social capital that you enjoy. Your taste in books is ‘better’ because of your upbringing – your parents, school, the company you keep. It does not make you wiser, or more tasteful, it just makes you a privileged fucking snob who chooses to piss over other’s tastes

About 10% of India’s population speak English. Out of those, these people are about 5% – the ones with access to books and literature. And yet, the sheer snobbery when it comes to Bhagat and his books is appalling.

To mock the themes of his books, the idiotic stereotyping is one thing. But to say that the English/grammar in his book ‘sucks’ – I’m sorry – makes you an elite prick.

 

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Chetan Bhagat might not be a literary force de majeur, but he has encouraged millions of Indians to pick up a book and read for pleasure. Before Bhagat, a book by an Indian author cost above 350 rupees, and a small jar of Amrutanjan Pain Relief Balm.

As someone who mails publishing houses every year with a manuscript idea, I have a fair idea about the industry – a gigantic incestuous family that churns out shit year after year. This is hardly a new phenomenon and legendary Indian writers have had a problem with this hackneyed Indian publishing industry that is reeling from a 70 year colonial hangover. Manto had his own share of problems, as did RK Narayan – who self-published his books after years of frustration.

Indian publishing houses put the ‘prof’ in ‘unprofessional’. There are no prompt responses, no acknowledgment of acceptance. You are supposed to shoot in a mail and wait in the darkness for months at end. Try getting a phone number and pinging/calling (something that would be considered alright in any other industry) is looked down upon.

And in spite of all this attitude, the kind of books that are published are not worth wiping your shit with. And Chetan Bhagat cracked this market.

Hate him as much as you want, but young India is reading his books. They don’t give two shits about Vikram Seth and his unsuitable balls, or Arundhati Roy cribbing about the state, its mechanisations and the colour of aliens’ underwears.

First generation Indian English speakers are free of the colonial burden of Indian literature and are picking up Chetan Bhagat’s books. His works are accessible, relatable and palatable.

 

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Which is why I smiled when my Tinder date complained about Chetan Bhagat books. She went on about how she thought he was ‘disgusting’, and wished that Indians would read Neil Gaiman and Murakami instead. Sure thing, Little Princess. I quickly asked for the cheque and looked for the exit.

I assume she thought she was being remarkably different – a cut above the rest. While all she was, was an intellectual five point someone!

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Suggested Reading:

Forbes’ Article on Chetan Bhagat and his impact on Indian Literature 

 

My own blog where I discuss how Chetan Bhagat’s solutions are reminiscent of David Dhawan-Govinda movies.

New York Times article titled ‘How English Ruined Indian Literature’ – a different perspective on the same issue. (which I thought was rubbish, but I’m trying to be unbiased here! 😀 )

 

Diwali pollution

A cracker of a decision

Sometimes, I wonder if there’s any issue we can discuss in India without giving it communal undertones.

And then, I remember that this is India and if I want to have fancy dreams, I might as well think of Aditi Rao Hydari on a bright summer beach. We might be the oldest existing civilisation in the world, but we discuss and argue with the intellectual maturity of adolescent grasshoppers.

Unlike what Twitter will tell you, the directive to ban the sale of firecrackers in Delhi and NCR does not stem from the Supreme Court being a ‘liberal gandu’. It was actually a petition signed by three kids from Delhi who believed that firecrackers were polluting the air.

And before you dismiss it as some childish dream by three naadaan bachhe, here’s some facts that will stir up the patriotism in you – India has a problem of pollution. 13 of our cities rank among the 30 most polluted cities in the world. We have the most number of polluted cities, and share this unique distinction with China, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Which means that we live in the most polluted region in the world, and if we don’t start acting up, shit gonna hit da fan, bruh!

According to other reports, 50 lakh kilograms of firecrackers are set to be sold in the NCR region, and 1 lakh kilos in Delhi alone. Which of course, has some benefits. For example, we learn new words every year. Like SMOKE + FOG = SMOG. After all, Indian culture is the best. Even if you pollute the fuck out of the environment, Indian culture will give you something back in return.

Most critics of the ban have a singular, solid point of defence. Why single out only Hindu festivals? Are you fucking kidding me? You’re going to be bursting 2 crore kilograms of firecrackers in one night, and you want a fucking pat on the back??

Funnily enough, most patriots nurture a strange notion that crackers are an integral part of Diwali celebrations. They actually believe that our ancestors from the Vedic age burst crackers on Diwali. What fertile minds! What vivid imaginations!!

So they must be thinking that the day Rama returned from Lanka after defeating Ravana, Vishwamitra and Vashishta went and bought some bijli bombs and started lighting up ladis along the road. That Narada went and brought some rockets and Shatrughana (since he didn’t have much to do throughout) made sure the crackers were dried in the sun the previous day!

And leading this pack of morons is the largest selling author of our country – Chetan Bhagat. It’s been five years since I’ve bitched about the guy, and I’m thrilled to announce that the dude has just got more and more stupid as the years have gone by. Mr. Bhagat has tweeted about how firecrackers are being targeted, and slaughtering goats is not touched upon. Bhagat is a funny man. All through the UPA regime, he fussed and cribbed about the government being a sellout by making policies appeasing Muslims. One would assume he would shut the fuck up now that his wet dreams have come true with a majority BJP government. But one must never underestimate the power of stupidity!

And that is the sad part about having any discussion in India today. You cannot broach any topic without some intellectually challenged dude like Chetan Bhagat questioning your secular credentials. I fail to understand how pollution has any religion. What is the religion of a child’s lungs? And which God rescues older people and children when they get asthma attacks after every Diwali?

I understand the skepticism in the minds of people. But it is not impossible. Smaller cities like Ranchi and Bhubaneswar have set up specific locations in the city where crackers can be sold. Some cities in China have completely banned the use of firecrackers – no exceptions, no by-laws. Even Mumbai has laws (at least on paper) that you cannot burst crackers on the roads.

Laws are the beginning of change. And when you fight the forming of laws, what change do you expect to see in the country?

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Unfortunately, Hinduism began as a religion that worshipped nature. Rig Veda, the oldest of the Vedas, is a collection of hymns that praise nature as gods. In India, we worship the wind, water, oceans, trees, and hills.

And yet, come any festival, and we pollute like today’s the last day on earth. Like tomorrow morning Kalki Avatar is going to arrive on his white horse and wipe out everybody on the face of this planet.

Diwali? We celebrate Rama’s victory by dirtying our roads, scaring patients in hospitals, and inducing thousands of injuries from fire wounds. Holi? We throw toxic chemicals on each other, and decide to also colour dogs, cows and buffaloes. Ganesh Puja? We hail the God of Knowledge by doing the dumbest fucking thing on earth – dumping him in water bodies. Durga Puja? We worship The Mother by laying her to rest in filthy rivers and lakes.

THIS is our culture. We are a nation that loves to pollute. That loves to spread filth and celebrate it as our ‘rich’ culture. Ironically, all the fools who support firecrackers will shut their mouths and follow the laws of the land when they’re in a different country. But when in India…

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I find it sad when I see teenagers and youngsters talk about our rich heritage. When I see them reason that we have been bursting crackers for hundreds of years – why should we stop now? 

Well, times change. And we would be idiots not to change with it. Do you still wear dhotis, write letters in post cards, and travel in horse-drawn taangaas? Then what’s the problem in acknowledging a problem that is real, and getting worse by the year?

What is the reluctance in accepting change, in understanding that we cannot as a nation keep on polluting our air and rivers? What sort of a intellectually warped nation have we become that we cannot even see beyond our flaws as a nation?

What IS this culture that we keep celebrating??

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(Featured Image courtesy Flicker)

Movie Review – Too Stale!

Disclaimer: The post contains ‘spoilers’. However, if you watch the movie later on TV, you’ll realise they’re actually ‘money-savers’.

 

From the stable of Chetan Bhagat, comes yet another film that is targeted at the youth of the country. And yet, when you sit through the movie, you’re looking around frantically for a knife. And wondering how someone could devote a few years of their lives to such a steaming pile of crap.

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Welcome to the land of Chetan Bhagat.

A land where professors pick students on the first day of class and humiliate them. A world where Tamilians call Punjabis ‘uncultured’ two minutes after meeting them. Where Punjabis tell a respectable Tamil family that they’re all dark-skinned, while having dinner with them. Where all students of IIMs wear specs – except the heroine of course. That’d make her unhot!

Two States is the Mahakumbh of stereotypes.

Where stereotypes of every colour, creed, and literary value meet to take part in a gigantic orgy.

The film is set in IIM Ahmedabad, where Krish, a Punjabi boy (who was also from IIT) is a student. He falls in love with Ananya, a Tam-Brahm who doesn’t look, sound, or act like a Tamilian at all. She pronounces ‘bahut’ as ‘bhot’, and ‘Punjabi’ as ‘Pnjaabi’. Because that’s how Tamilians talk.

Like all Chetan Bhagat heroines, she wears jeans as well as salwars, and is ready to have sex at the drop of a hat. But deep within, she’s a sanskari kudi who doesn’t want to go against the wishes of her parents.

The two of them complete their course and it’s time for placements. The boy applies for Yes Bank (because he’s a boy), and the girl applies to Sunsilk (because). And what mind-blowing replies they give, to get through their jobs.

When asked why he wants to join Yes Bank, the guy says ‘Because your bank is the best.’ And when the girl is asked ‘Why Sunsilk?’, she mumbles something about ‘Sunsilk Woman – Confident Woman’.

And then, the interviewers, who are actually ant-eaters in disguise, offer them the jobs. After which, the couple moves on to other first world problems. Like how to get married. Without pissing off parents.

When the parents are introduced, one feels a tinge of regret. That such actors are made to go through such tripe. Revathi manages to bring in some respect into her otherwise frivolous role, whereas Amrita Singh dives into hers uninhibitedly. And then, there’s Ronit Roy – a guy who usually manages to pull off intense roles with aplomb. But since it is Stereotype Carnival, he plays an abusive, alcoholic father. Completely different from his role in Udaan, where is a father of a boy who wants to be a writer. (In Udaan, the boy was a teenager. Here, he’s in his early 20’s. See? Subtle!)

And then there are the leads – the next-gen of Bollywood.

Alia Bhat brings in absolute zilch into the role, and in spite of her screen presence, carries just one expression throughout. Take for example the scene where Krish narrates the most painful incident of his life. When the flashback is done, she is smiling.

And it is the same smile she has when Krish proposes to her (in the middle of her Placements Interview), when she moves in with him, and when she cries during her wedding. Resulting in her looking like a Kareena Kapoor clone – everything from her voice modulation, her expressions, to the way she carries herself, has a distinct Kareena Kapoor hangover.

If Alia has one expression, Arjun Kapoor has half.

Whether he’s talking, walking, grimacing, grinning, or smiling – you feel absolutely nothing for his character. Making him seem like a pass-out from the Sanjay Dutt School of Acting – where actors are trained not to give a single fuck about the film they’re starring in.

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But what hurts the film the most, is the lazy writing.

Dialogues have been lifted verbatim from the book. As if to prove that even if books and films are different media, Chetan Bhagat transgresses such banalities. And then, there are the morals that are thrown into the film. Otherwise log kahenge ki yeh sirf entertainment hai. Is se desh nahi badal sakti hai.

So Alia Bhat wins over her in-laws by solving a dowry problem. By humiliating the groom at his wedding, and asking him to be happy with the dowry he’s received, and stop whining for more. Or the scene at the end, where a voice-over tell us that our parents are actually just worried that we’ll forget them, and hence all this drama.

Thus blowing a gigantic kiss to patriarchy, regressive social norms, and 14th century values being practiced in 2014.

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In the end, the film succeeds in becoming Chetan Bhagat.

It plays out to the galleries. In one moment, the narrator is a shy, introvert sort of person. In the next, he begins singing and dancing at college, and in weddings. The makers go on to make this abominable shit-fest, with the confidence that backing them, is the voice of the nation.

Chetan fucking Bhagat.

And in the end, that is what the film is. A shit-fest that will earn lots of money.

 

 

 

Satan Bhagat and Salman Rushed-out

What is it about Chetan Bhagat?

Like an itch inside your pants during a Team Meeting, why is he always there in the media, the news, the internet?

As if the brouhaha over his latest book (I was tempted to review it, but dropped the idea due to the sheer mediocrity in it) breaking new records wasn’t enough, he also commented on the Salman Rushdie issue. “We shouldn’t make controversial authors into heroes,” says Mr. Bhagat, the IIT-IIM passout panacea for every problem in the world. Really?

Coming from the second most annoying person on television (after Suhel Seth), someone who is always in the middle of some controversy or the other, the statement seems laughably hypocritical. Here’s why:

Chetan Bhagat is what he is, simply because of the hero-worshipping that he attributes to Rushdie. Rushdie didn’t publish tweets saying he wanted to attend it. He was invited to the Festival, on the basis of his writing. Chetan Bhagat, meanwhile, has a say on every issue, provides Idea-3G like solution to the the most complex problems of the country, and has created an aura of a messiah around himself, whereas at best, his books are pulp fiction. Something you pick for a train journey, and then pass it on.

Before I face brickbats, let me make it clear I am not undermining his worth. He has changed the game in Indian publishing, selling millions, and spawning a set of young authors, who write about the terribly fascinating subjects of campus, romance, love triangles, and friendship. He has brought down the price of books, and many would argue, the standards of writing in English as well.

For now, you don’t need writing skills to write a book. What you need is a love story, a campus, a little sex added to the plot, and stir it up with a colourful book cover, and sell it at 100 rupees. Ho gaya!

Which again, I have no problems against. I am no one to decide how someone should write, and what someone else should read. If his books have been selling like hotcakes, there surely would be something in it that people can relate to. What I have a problem with, is his messiah-like image that he has carefully built around himself.

Look at some of his articles on The Times of India.

In an article, supposedly to help women deal with stress, he writes,

Can you imagine life without the ladies?”

There would be body odour, socks on the floor and nothing in the fridge to eat. The entertainment industry would die. Who wants to watch movies without actresses? Kids would be neglected and turn into drug addicts or psychopaths by age 10. Soon, all-male world leaders would lose their tempers at the slightest provocation, and bomb the guts out of each other’s countries. ”

Really, dude? And the Times of India accepts that kind of trash?? May be they asked him what Hrithik Roshan’s pet name was, and then selected the story.

He ends the article with this remarkable line, “Now smile, before your mother-in-law shouts at you for wasting your time reading the newspaper.”

The article advices women to stand up for themselves, not to cook four dishes a day, and to tell their bosses that their work is not being appreciated. There is no mention of how men could help out women at home, stop suffering from vertical squint (the biological condition wherein a man’s eyes are squinted downwards, giving the impression that he is talking to the woman’s boobs), or just treat women as equals.

Or his solution to corruption – this one-sentence stroke of genius – “Punishment is must for all scams.” Wow! My eyes were opened on that day, and I still find it difficult to sleep at nights, they refuse to shut.

The fact is, Chetan Bhagat, thanks to his tweets, his speeches, and his articles, has been made into exactly that – a controversial author made into a superstar. Then what does he have against Rushdie?

Now, let’s talk about the issue of censorship.

Chetan Bhagat will never face censorship of any kind, because his books hardly have the density or depth that require any censoring, in spite of lines like “I want to milk that woman.” In such a case, it is easy for him to talk about controversial authors being made into heroes.

As an author, if I were to begin writing by thinking within a certain periphery of what I am about to write about, what is the whole point?

I don’t want to get into the religious repercussions of Rushdie’s writings. I understand that his book has ruffled feathers worldwide, but does that mean we won’t let him enter the country and attend a literary festival? Who are we, the Taliban??

The government made up facts about underworld dons threatening to kill him, and Rushdie was kept out of the event. And then, our Mr. Chetan Bugger says that what happened was right, and we as a country, should not make controversial authors into heroes. Which is scary because he has made himself into some sort of model for youth, and his words impact a million youngsters in the country. Isn’t he propagating intolerance? He should be talking about people being liberal, accommodating, and mature.

Censorship in books has been an issue over the last few years, and taking a look at the list of books that have been banned in the last few years will tell you that there is no set yardstick for banning a book. A few protests here and there could ban a book, that’s how simple it is. Some of the books are:

The Polyester Prince – The Rise of Dhirubhai Ambani. The book speaks about the rise of the Reliance empire, and apparently had some objectionable content about him. Now, tell me, do you think that a particular set of people, belonging to a certain caste, community, or race would have protested against the book? It clearly didn’t go down well with a corporate house, and without any explanation, the book was downright banned.

Nehru: A political biography: No explanation needed about what the book consists of. But, unfortunately some of the people in our country didn’t like the book, and so it was banned.

Shivaji – Hindu king in Islamic India: The biography didn’t go down well with politicians in Maharashtra, and after attacks on the publisher’s offices and a library, the book was banned. When the Supreme Court lifted the ban last year, here’s what Raj Thackeray had to say: “”If anyone tries to sell the book, then they will face the music in MNS style. We will burn each and every copy of the book.”

If this goes on, what is the future of writing in our country? Do authors get to write only nice things about people? Do all authors have to write about campus love stories, books titled ‘Three Morons’, ‘Four Buffoons of my Life’, and ‘I love Sixty Nine’?? If I want to write about a personality, and there is something that might not be pleasant to read, do I need to shut up and keep it to myself? Is this the new, shiny India that Mr. Bhagat envisages for us, when he sits down to write those inspirational Chicken Soup for the Country’s Soul articles in the ToI every Sunday?

Allow me to choose my heroes, Mr. Bhagat. I would rather have a controversial author as my hero, than a mediocre one.