Friday, August 8, 2014

Chetan Bhagat: Man who brought “Reading-Revolution” to India

Caution 1: Long Post!

Caution 2: First Paragraph does not talk about Bhagat and his Bhagats.

Chetan Bhagat (Photo Courtesy - iDiva)
In the late 90s, Doordarshan was the only channel for the entire nation. And then DD Metro was launched as a second channel for Metro Cities only. And, the same happened with Cable TV – initially, it set its foot in Metropolitan Cities and it took some years before it could enter 2nd Tier or 3rd Tier Cities and finally villages of India. There was always a gap and will ever be between city dwellers and village folks – and to not had Cable TV further widened it. Cable TV not only amplified the entertainment options but it also brought Westerns Music, Sitcoms and Hollywood into Indian homes. It jolted Indians in an overt manner much like Madhuri Dixit scared Aamir Khan with her 440 Volts in Dil. A volcano of information had erupted and it became a rage to know more and more about West. USA was a dream land of Bold and Beautiful people, WWF Wrestlers and Pamela Anderson. And, it led us to a constant cribbing regarding Bollywood and Desi Serials, which had to evolve into a rage – and ultimately Cable TV viewing Indians vented out their anger in the form of scathing criticism for India. It was a matter of knowing and not-knowing. We have come this far in these twenty years, but for many it is still a kind of Hip-Thing to watch an English Movie and to brag about it in front of friends. To certain extent this same thing goes with the reading preferences of the Indians. And, Bhagat has really done a lot in that context. Not judging his contribution in improving the English of Indians, but he certainly made them read his stuff – written in English.

Now, let’s talk about Bhagat now. I know the beauty of description lies in brevity. But, no harm if you can exaggerate simple things to fill-up pages and be bluntly straightforward – when it comes to some steamy action. Bhagat has a knack for that – he can drag a Class-Room Scene to three pages and serve up a Sex Scene in a few words – “they just had to do it” kind of stuff. Easy availability of Porn on the Internet has done the same thing to current generation – they just want to see quick action or main action.

Once again, I would refer to the first paragraph that I wrote – In the early 90s – watching English Movies and to know more about America than your country became a rage or a true sense of modernity. Consequently, our reading habits also evolved with time. More and more Indians or young people want to read English stuff, but why waste time in understanding the nuance of description and immense power of word-play by reading the Novels of Rushdie, Seth or for that matter Arundhati Roy. Damn, who would like to check the dictionary at least 5 times to understand a single page written by these guys. They are boring and difficult to understand. And, Bhagat comes forth as a right substitute – cool Lingo dude. Just like we used to read those Top Twenty or King Champions notes to pass our supplementary courses in DU Exams.

Earlier, they used to sell a pack of five or ten old magazines at Railway Stations or Bus Terminals – but now they have Bhagat’s gems – five point someone, one night at a call center and many others. In the 90s, to talk about movies and cricket was vogue or in fashion, likewise reading is in vogue these days. And Bhagat is a shot-cut to intellectual enlightenment. You can read easy English and achieve that sense of satisfaction. There is an X-Factor associated with Bhagat. He is an ex-IIT and IIM Student. Well, for some people that is enough.  And, even if he criticizes these two premier institutes of India – he has been there done that. We just can’t do that and shouldn’t.

I did talk to a few who have read Bhagat’s novels. They all asserted that his books are easy to read and quite interesting - with a few quick sex scenes. Bhagat’s popularity has increased multifold since the release of his first book because this guy didn’t change a bit nor his writing style and stories – so he will never riddle you with something new – content with his content which has earned him immense following. Same goes with Bollywood. We do criticize it vehemently for producing clichés and non-sense content, but ultimately that’s what we like. And, in a country more than a billion people, it hardly matters. Because even if you get hold of 5% people – you are not the best seller but a Super-Seller. To read in English is hip and happening then why not Bhagat – the writer for masses. For many Indians, Bollywood is a get away from their treacherous daily life – and likewise Bhagat is there for them, a true-partner in their Intellectual ride – a pure vicarious pleasure.


rishi prakash said...

I know, for some, Chetan Bhagat's fan followers will not accept this, but at the same time, I am happy about your views.

Akshay Kohli said...

I agree with what you are saying...The only thing that I say is kudos to Chetan Bhagat for at least getting kids to read books (be it his or something else). With more and more kids choosing to play Play Station or just wanting to see the movie without reading the book,it is a small step I feel towards making these kids the importance of reading...I feel he might do what JK Rowling has done (I hope you know what I mean!) She got kids around the world to read books in general...Never the less...what you are saying is also correct...One simply can't add illogical stuff to his book and sell it! There has to be a sense of realization (whatever that might be)after finishing a book and Bhagat's books are just something that has all what Bollywood movies look for! (Nice strategy by him...:p) First 3 idiots...then the idiot movie - Hello...three mistakes of my life and two states...

Manidip Garai said...

Once again -bingo!