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A Candid Letter to Chetan Bhagat Post ‘Half Girl Friend’

Updated on May 25, 2016
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New Delhi, Thursday, 10:00 HRS


Dear Chetan,

First of all take it for granted that there are few fans of you as mad about your novels as I. I have always reviewed your books the very next day after their release. Most of the time I have been very positive about your novels. But frankly, I have not been impressed much with your ‘Half Girl Friend’. I am sorry to say some of my friends have started referring to you as ‘That Mills and Boons writer’ which I don’t like at all. I would have liked it against Toms, Dicks and Harrys but not against somebody who has the callibre to write ‘Five Point Someone’. Why are you unable to re-create ‘Five Point Someone’ and ‘Three Mistakes of My life’? Here I am going to tell you what you should write and how to remain relevant in the game for long. My earnest request to you is not to take my advice otherwise. I am no expert to tell you all this, but sure, I am a voracious reader I have the ability to feel the pulse of the readers. I like you to ever remain at the top and so, as a friend, these are my suggestions. If you find them useful please adopt them into your writing.

'Half Girl Friend' explores the impact of English language in Indian society

Chetan, as always, has a love story to serve to his readers which he says he took 3 years to write. His new novel makes a research on the newly emerging class system. I call it 'Newly Emerging' because it is not the conventional class system of Indian society. It is the class defined by the English language. Those who speak English well find themselves in a different class in India, everywhere, in schools, in colleges, in jobs and for that matter, just everywhere in life. Let's watch this Youtube video where Chetan tells us all about 'Half Girl Friend'.

Chetan Bhagat speaks to NDTV and fans

Chetan, my friend, you are missing the surprise element

When I was reading ‘Half girl friend’ I was not intrigued to read more, barring at some points. I remember I was so anxious to complete ‘The Three Mistakes of my Life’ once I had started reading it. At one point I had to leave it halfway and rush to a relative’s house for some important household work. All the while I was talking to my kiths, the thought of knowing what happened next in the story, remained with me. As soon as I came back I was absorbed in the book again. But I did not feel the same about ‘Half Girl Friend’.

I render this to the so called ‘surprise element’ which is like ‘special effects’ aspect of a movie. Here I would like to quote those writers who are regarded as maestros in this art. I read ‘Coma’ by Robin Cook. At one point a contract killer follows the lead female character with an intention to murder her. I noticed that while Cook narrated this part of the story, he described everything looking from the killer’s angle. I mean, when he got up in the morning, how he started following her etc. It entirely changes the perspective of the reader, rotates the view and the reader is intrigued as to what happens next. I call it a ‘surprise element’. Read Sydney Sheldon’s novels and observe why he is known as the master of unexpected twists in the stories.

Your characters are limited to certain echelons of the society and they appear similar

Chetan, your lead characters are repeating themselves in your novels. I know your reply. You will definitely say that you are regarded as youth idol and hence your main characters must come from this age group. Right, O.K. But aren’t they very similar to each other? Haven't you been typecasting them too often?I find the characters of ‘3 Idiots’ everywhere in your stories. Your fans have liked them so far and may like for another 2-3 years. But what next? It’s high time you started casting offbeat characters.

Enough of the careerist who wants to pursue his life in his own way. Enough of the lover boy chasing his girl friend everywhere. Enough of bad dads…Enough…enough …enough…..

Chetan, you do not imitate others but of late, you have been imitating yourself a bit too much.

Boy meets the girl. They live happily ever after.

Your stories are being talked of as having typical Hindi movie climax. Boy meets girl, they live happily ever after. This has been the case in almost all of your novels. Again I will repeat the same thing. Lack of variety may not be liked for a prolonged period. There was a devastating feeling when I read that Samir, lead female character's brother, had not met with an accident but had committed suicide in ‘Five Point Some One’. That gave the reader a shocking feeling. On occasions you have given happy surprises too to the reader. But things are going amiss now. To give a sharp turn to the story you have to be unexpected at points. You have to jolt the reader’s psyche a bit more.

You are being branded as a writer for teenagers instead of being a youth idol. Care for the maturity element.

A colleague of mine told that Chetan Bhagat is a writer of teens. I asked her to explain how. She told that though the tales cast characters who are out of college or in a job but the way they speak, the way they behave and just everything about them seems to be teen behavior. She was talking of the lack of maturity in the way the characters of ‘Half Girl friend’ have been depicted. Though I did not give it an approval yet I must say there is no smoke without fire. While we were discussing, a colleague or two defended her opinion too. The crux is that the problems of the youth are definitely like the ones you depict but solutions must be dealt with maturely.

Chetan, in my opinion too, the stories have started looking somewhat like children’s stories. But I think if you are choosing different looking characters, this problem will vanish of its own. Why always throw love birds the readers’ way? Get them something new.

More of research work is required.

While I read read ‘One night @ Call Centre’ the entire night life of the call centre operators came alive. How they tread on the roads as careless souls, how they fall out with each other, how their managers treat them in an inhumane and harsh way, how they get stuck up in their assignments and are at the mercy of the service engineer and many more things like that. With each page my sympathy for the poor souls increased.

But the same cannot be said of ‘Half Girl Friend’. Though the St. Stephens Campus and the place in Bihar called Dumraon came up for introspection yet I’m sorry to say, the picture could not emerge out as vividly. More importance always centred around the feelings of the lead characters. In contrast, I find ‘Revolution 2020’ placed better. The scenes in Kota and Varanasi were closer to life. There was an engrossing subject and the characters were carved out of real life.

Suggestions

I once read a TOI article penned by you with the caption ‘Bootlegging of Education’. You were absolutely brilliant there. Why have you not shown the same level of maturity in ‘Half Girl Friend’?

Your one liners were top class humour for me in ‘Five Point Some One’. The same is missing nowadays.

When Govind's shop crashed in the quake in ‘Three Mistakes of My Life’ his deceased father’s memories haunted him. That was so real. Ask yourself whether you have been able to write with so much emotional input ever after.

Speaking of '2 States, The story of My Marriage', the drama was excellent. The same was not found in 'Half Girl Friend'.

Waiting for your next one, an ardent fan.

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