Mumbai: Chetan Bhagat admits that he is a bundle of nerves as we speak to him, a week before the release of Two States, the latest film adaptation of his book by the same name.
Neither his best-selling track record, nor the motivational-speaker side of his personality seem to calm his nerves as he awaits the official release of the film. The reason he says is, “The expectations are too high this time and besides, this story is very close to my heart. I know that a large section of readers and audiences is eagerly looking forward to the film and I hope it lives up to their expectations.”
When he says that the book is close to his heart, he means it in more ways than one. After all, it is inspired by his love story. But not entirely, he points out. “Yes, I met my wife Anusha at IIM and she is a Tamilian Brahmin while I hail from a Punjabi family. There was a bit of opposition from both our families, but nothing as dramatic as shown in the film. This is a story about Krish and Ananya. If it were a true representation of my life, I’d call it a story about Chetan and Anusha,” he quips.
While Two States along with his previous works Three Mistakes of My Life, Five Point Someone and Revolution 2020 dealt with youth love stories, he admits that it’s not all he wants to do in the long run. “I don’t want to write campus love stories all my life. I want to get the attention of the youth and other readers with entertainment stories, build a base, and then address issues that need their attention. People may look at my works and say that ‘he’s a Bollywood writer’, but the 360-degree picture is quite different,” he assures us.
Chetan doesn’t care for literary accolades and rave reviews. The biggest reward, he tells us, is when a non-English reader initiates his journey into the world of books by picking up a Chetan Bhagat copy. “I know of a gentleman who after reading my book (Three Mistakes of My Life), handed it over to his driver. The driver read it one page per day. In effect, the book cut across classes,” he points out.
More recently, a Sardarji who got his daughter married off to a boy from Kerala had a stall with copies of Chetan’s Two States right next to the dessert counter at the wedding! “The book had changed his mind and instead of explaining to his guests what exactly led him to give his daughter away to a South Indian family, he simply led them to the stand. I kid you not! He also invited me to the wedding, but unfortunately, I couldn’t make it,” he says.
Despite the warmth he has received from the Indian readers, a section of the literati has labelled Chetan’s works as bubblegum fiction or some such. The author admits it doesn’t bother him as much as it used to. “It has stopped affecting me now. I am a lot more secure than I used to be. Whatever I am doing seems to be working for me. My word is taken seriously, if not very seriously even outside of my works. So clearly, I am doing something right. But the detractors will always remain, I guess,” he says.
An unconventional author who studied engineering and business as opposed to literature, Chetan believes that the background helped him greatly. “It helps me organise my work and have a professional attitude rather than being artiste-like. I respect deadlines for one,” he adds.
Currently working on a rural fiction story, Chetan has also been closely following the high-voltage political drama unfolding everyday. Is he tempted to jump into it, we ask. “Not right now,” he replies. “It needs 100 per cent attention and giving up what you want to pursue otherwise, so I don’t think I can do it right now. But I am not saying no. The window is always open.”...