12 January 2010

2 Stories - Chetan Bhagat

With '3 idiots' breaking all sorts of records and lot of controversy surrounding the extent of credit Chetan Bhagat got for the movie, its timely that I read 2 of his books last week. You have to give it to the guy - his writing style is engaging enough to make you read his books in one go. Beyond the fact that I read really fast and typically stay up till I finish a book, I surely feel that his narration is such that one just can’t put the book down. ‘One night at a call center’ was an exception though. It took me a week to read it in bits and pieces. But in general, this man can tell a story in relatively fewer pages, and it sells for INR 95 which is undoubtedly value for money. The only other books I see at that price range is from M&B (you can read all about 'em here) and that is not even a fair comparison. Thanks to Rupa & Co. for that. And hope other writers follow that route too! It gets them a wider audience and at this price point more people tend to buy a copy for themselves rather than borrow it from someone. Seems so simple, right? But you will be surprised how many people follow it in reality. Anyway, coming to the books…

It is the story of a businessman, set aptly in Gujarat for more than one reason. As usual there is a trio of characters, childhood friends in this case, led by the protagonist (I am not sure if he was meant to be, I usually assume that the narrator is, but you never know with this man!) who venture into a small business – a cricket store. The book takes us through the journey of three youngsters as they start their business and build it amidst a few serious setbacks. Somewhere the religious angle sneaks into the story and takes a turn into communal riots and finally comes to a tragic end. Oh no, that wasn’t the end – I almost forgot that there was something to salvage out of the situation after all. Apparently now, All is Well (LOL!!! Sorry… I really couldn’t resist that one). He manages to keep cricket alive in the storyline throughout and also has a love angle of sorts within the plot. That it has no element of humor is not surprising considering the seriousness of the issues he has taken up through this book; but I suppose funny comes to him a lot more easily and he must have found it a different experience to write without his best weapon.

The quintessential love story, the one we have seen in endless number of movies where parents are against the young lovers’ union for one reason or the other. As is obvious from the title in this case it is the states which the boy and girl belong to. In India, each state (and language and caste and community, etc) has a unique culture and a natural aversion and snobbishness towards people not belonging to that culture. That the boy and girl meet at IIM has no real significance but anyway the story starts there and moves to the respective families who as expected hate each other. The couple takes turns in trying to impress each other’s parents and extended family and after many, many attempts… manage to make it to the wedding stage. Applause! There is a father-son drama to add another dimension to the story but otherwise it’s a pretty smooth ride from beginning to end. Also as a South Indian, my verdict is that he keeps his promise of making fun of people from the South without being insulting. The tone is rather endearing and not so much looking down on them. And of course, here he has the liberty to use humor and he has made the most out of it, I think.

While both books were supposed to be based on real life stories, they still had the cinematic element of miracles – not the bullet-dodging sort but the ‘business does well right away’, ‘girl loves you already’ and ‘here is the key to their hearts’ sort. I would know because ironically both topics are relevant to me personally – convincing stubborn parents for a love marriage as well as running a business of my own someday. The kind of miracles that come by in these 2 stories haven’t happened in my life yet, not even close! But then to borrow and extend a quote – if ‘a book is a book; a film is a film’ then ‘life is life’ right?

p.s.: Since the author insists on having a number in all his titles, (like KJo's K fetish) I thought I will also humor the sentiment with my title :-)


  1. zid...

    I loved 2 states. you're right. his books are of the 'read-in-one-go' type.

    I haven't read 3 mistakes. but now that you say it is sans comedy - i'm wondering. will read, i think.

    it is the call of the hour to write about five point someone. why not write on that too?


  2. Oh I read five point someone ages ago and it needs a refresher; I do remember that I stayed up late again to finish it and laughed out loud many times scaring my then roomie out of her sleep. Also haven't seen 3 idiots yet :-( May be enough has been said about both now ?!?

    Anyway I am almost through with 'Banker to the poor'; so that's on next! As promised...

  3. zid...
    I just finished reading '3 mistakes...' and enjoyed it too. Chetan Bhagat does write engagingly.

    The portions that are sort of 'autobiographical' in nature sparkle with minute detail, insights into a bright boy-man's mind, and his ability to laugh indulgently at himself. The romantic interlude, the relationship between friends, and Govind's understanding / discovery of his own nature - all fall into this category.

    Where the experiences are probably not so personal, the author seems to taken refuge in creating visual imagery - like in the earthquake sequence and especially in the climax-like sequence at the bank. Looks like a screenplay can come directly out of that chapter without much 'interpretation' work for getting from book to movie!

    Also, I'm curious to know what the whole story would sound like coming from Ish. He couldn't be the narrator because he didn't have a romantic interlude I suppose!

    The father-son tension, the attempt at suicide, the mother-son bonding, the recognition of (or slow transition into)love after getting the 'more lust than love' part out of way - seem to be recurrent themes in the structure of his stories.

    er.. this comment has turned out to be a mini review.

  4. well, what do i say? once a review-writer... hehe!

    and i think a full-fledged review is due from one of you now! seeing arth working 25 hrs a day, i am pinning my hopes on u. so?