He says he’s thrilled to talk about something so dear to his heart; and glad, for once, that people are not interested in his Bollywood connection. Despite being addressed as ‘The biggest selling English language novelist in India’s history’ by New York Times and being listed in Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People list (2010), Chetan Bhagat manages to retain the youthful optimism of a child.
At Chitkara International School, Sector 25, to deliver a seminar — What does Indian youth want from school teachers — on Saturday for principals of leading tricity schools, the author stresses on the importance of country-wide education.
Bhagat’s debut novel, Five Point Someone, was the basis for Rajkumar Hirani’s film 3 Idiots. The movie brings to light the importance of education being stress-free and innovative, for students to enjoy the learning process. “But that doesn’t mean you turn schools into spas, giving students a completely stress-free environment. Some hard work is inevitable,” he says.
Talking about the controversies his writing has garnered over the years, Bhagat says he’s not an activist, but a pragmatist. “I don’t want to rant about what is wrong with our system. All I can do is make noise on Facebook and Twitter, and hope that students carry forward my message.”
About the fairly-recent film Kai Po Che being in the limelight for the wrong reasons, he says, “The judge to whom this case was presented didn’t have the DVD of the film, so, he read a passage from the book instead, which happened to be a scene from Godhra riots, and he ended up calling it ‘pornographic in nature’.
That, I believe, was highly irrelevant and wrong. A riot scene will of course be gruesome; the judge couldn’t differentiate between the two. India is too quick to ban what it deems unfit, which is almost everything.”
And how hard was it making the switch from investment banking to
writing? “It wasn’t very easy. When I started, publishers told me my books would never sell. One of them even asked me to write textbooks because I’m a ‘techie’. But then, Five Point Someone got published, after which, there was no looking back.” Bhagat quit his investment-banking career in 2009 to devote his entire time to writing.
Letting us in on what sets his writing apart, he says it’s his style of being able to mix news and fiction, whilst writing about the middle class. Currently writing a script titled Kick (starring Salman Khan), Bhagat says, “The name and actor tell you what kind of a film it would be, and I know it is far removed from my usual fare, but how else can I reach rural India? They don’t read either my books or my columns in newspapers.”
While most people tend to lose touch with reality after being acquainted with fame, Bhagat has managed to walk the tightrope between fame and humility. “This generation needs a voice, and I am only too happy to speak up for those who need it,” he concludes.