The bestselling author is yearning for acceptance from the elite literary fraternity, observes Cineswami
It is hard for us literate people to feel sorry for Chetan Bhagat. Remember him? The guy who wrote a book called Five Point Someone that was a takeoff point for the phenomenally successful film 3 Idiots starring Aamir Khan? He also wrote (we use the term loosely) One Night @ The Call Center that the execrable Salman Khan film Hello was based on. The 3 Mistakes of My Life is currently being made by Rock On!! director Abhishek Kapoor as Kai Po Che and a film adaptation of Bhagat’s 2 States is also in the works.
So why is Cineswami being unusually generous and feeling sorry for the Bhagat? India’s literary establishment has long (and correctly) held Bhagat’s literary (ha!) output in great disdain. Yet, hypocritically, the same establishment routinely invites him to literary festivals, because, like Salman Khan, he is a box office draw for the great unwashed, the illiterate masses who ‘read’ his ‘books’. It is widely believed in elite publishing circles that Bhagat cares not a whit for this poor opinion of him held by the literate. He simply doesn’t care was the byword. But today, the Bhagat has proved them wrong. He craves, nay, yearns for acceptance. Be the millions that he’s made that is may, he has his snotty nose pressed against the plate glass window of the literary bakery, yearning for a bite of the scrumptious confectionery within. The provocation was a simple piece criticising his writing, but in a pretty nice and roundabout way. This is the offending sentence, referring to 2 States: “Chetan Bhagat, an author who sums up the limitless potential of a Punjabi boy’s first visit to the south with the astute observation: ‘In Chennai all shop signs were in Tamil.’
The Bhagat was stung to the quick and took to that refuge of all ranters, Twitter. The first thing he posted was the simple: “The amount of effort my haters put to bring me and my readers down is amazing.” Fair enough, except, grammatically, that should read – my readers and me, rather than me and my readers. No worries, since nobody has accused Twitter of being a grammar platform or Bhagat of being an English scholar. Bhagat’s next nugget: “i guess unless i write ‘war and peace’, i shall continue to suck”. No Chetan, even if you write War and Peace, you’ll continue to blow. The fun continued apace on Twitter and the Bhagat’s wounded heart was on display to all. “How I feel when people say I don’t write well? Honestly? Well, like the owner of a packed restaurant, being told you don’t know how to cook.” Chetan beta, the owner of a packed restaurant is usually behind the till, counting the money (like you). It’s the chef who cooks.
Then, the lad resorts to Bollywood, saying, “I hate elitism. Like Rajesh Khanna said “Pushpa, I haaate tears” before the Chingari song. I hate it with that much emotion.” No doubt Bhagat hates elitism through his tears because no matter what his commercial success, he can never be part of that elitist club that he aspires to belong to. The response to his application is usually, “Sorry, madam, normal waiting time is 125 years, but for you, never.” And lastly, he comes up with this gem: “After much thought, I have a special message for my haters.” The message being a link to a video of Kuch toh log kahenge, from Amar Prem. Really, it took ‘much thought’ to come up with the most standard Indian response to detractors? Sorry, thoughts implies mind, brain etc. Still, our hearts go out to the poor little rich Bhagat. He’s a human being too with real feelings and hurt. There there. It’ll be all right. Take two aspirins and don’t call us in the morning.
And the 3 mistakes? Simple. Writing, writing, writing.