Monday, October 31, 2016

Who is afraid of Chetan Bhagat

Ever since his five point someone became a hit and set him on path to become the commercially most successful of Indian authors writing in English, Chetan Bhagat has always been at the center of one controversy or other. In a country, more specifically in an era, where success is worshipped and "success"ors even more so, the adulation received by CB is only matched by the audacity with which he continues to defy all odds in raking up bigger and growing box office collections for his novels, which are, to quote in comparison, like Harris Jayaraj music for movies, a mere copy or rehash of same old setup with different names. Yet, surprisingly, that is the least of all the pointed criticism barbs thrown at CB, with the topmost cry being from the language Nazis, who crib and cry over the cheap level of language used by him. Some even go to the extent that those budding authors who get “inspired” by CB may spawn and their tribe may ultimately result in the death of English language.
Obviously, I am not one of either of the groups in favor or decrying CB. I’ve read all his books, with his latest one in progress. As mentioned above, he has a formula like our movie stars. If something clicks big time the cash register, why change it. His novels are almost always from the same template. A narrator, who invariably would be some –ganist (proto and never anto) and would move the story, forward and backward (flash back in other words), whether it’s a guy or gal, they would definitely and would never be a virgin, with a chapter on when and how they lost it and except for lyrics and tune, one can almost put in songs at appropriate places had you been brought up on steady diet of movies. But then of course, this was a person who had vowed to bring in good scripts to Bollywood, good defined by his own self I guess. Of the half dozen books he had written, this is the theme, template and trait all throughout. If at all there is a theme for his books it should be repetition to the point of being overkill. Ivlo nottai solliyum I read all his books. Like how I watch mokka movies and put even mokkaier review of them. Ithellam emathu kalaachaara urimai. Kelvi kekkapdaathu. 

The pluses of his novels, if one can be at their condescending best, could be that, at peak, his novels would never stretch beyond an hours reading max and with a comfortable pace provided by the conversational tone on each of his books, with no need to rush for dictionary to check out complex words or google for unheard of idioms and phrases, its only obvious that his books are bound to sell more and more. The best of the lot for me is that fact that, a desi author, writing in foreign tongue, has managed to outsell the native language authors, is something we should actually cherish. It’s always the same with success of local guys which is often frowned upon as against those from West. I can understand the expectation and the positive intent behind the criticism. But inspiration as a concept is a fickle one. A good movie need not essentially lead to greater movies, but more often than not cheap imitations. With that backdrop, if people evaluate CB, then they may probably be right. If one has to debate whether such kind of material should even see the light of the day, that would be out right infringement on the right of the author. People who worry about the impact such books cause on the society would very well be required to move their starting point elsewhere on the visual medium and look for the long list of authors before CB, who were albeit not successful. In his defense, this guy is still riding on the success of his first book and is bound to run down soon. And for those who worry about the life and form of literature that is under onslaught by authors like CB and their simpleton language, well, this is post is more meant for them. What beats me is what exactly is their bug bear with CB. Is he the only bad author around who is successful? Those who think he is the only English author who churns out masala stuff that are bumper hits have obviously skipped reading Matt Reilly and James Rollins (Yes, I have read all their series as well. You can say masala novels are kind of my area of liking.) Is it his success as against pure literature (as defined by the critics) is it their love for English language? Is it the fear that his success may set the bar low for fellow authors to churn bad stuff to make money? If it’s all of the above or any, their fears are nothing but unfounded and criticism obviously unjustified. Obviously, CB knows, he is not going to win any Booker or literature Nobel. And definitely not his scripts are winning Oscars or even national award for that matter. So why write? Why all the fuss? He is no muck and with his IIM background, he knows a money winner idea when he finds one.

No one forces anyone to watch a bad movie or read a bad book. But still commercial or masala forms of art always out beat the classical ones, across all eras. Whether anyone would remember CB or his novels after few decades down the line, is as clear as tomorrow’s daylight. It’s always and have always been the choices we’ve to make that defines our taste. Scores of my friends know every line written by Austen by heart. I can never go beyond a chapter. I accept it as a classic because everyone else does. As simple as that. Is there any parameters to define it as a classic or trash, I’ve no clue. I love every single line in the book “Prodigal Daughter” by Jeffrey Archer, whose books have added whatever little vocabulary I can grasp from his vast resources. I don’t know if it’s a classic or on same lines of any definition as well. Lot of people are die hard Potter heads. But does that qualify as classic literature? (I am starting a civil war now) Even Dan Brown for all his success has been torn apart for his writing style and especially the amount of dots he uses in his conversations. There is a whole website dedicated for his wall of shame. All said and done, those authors who invite criticism have all been more successful than their peers. Is being a financial failure and living a life of a loser, dying a dreadfully por death the bane of great authors? Should they lead a life worthy of winning an Oscar post their death?

Ipo ennathaan solla vara? CB padikalamgaria venaamngaria nu kekaravangalukaga oru kathai surukkam of this post. Just like how people throng up to get admission on private schools despite so many govt schools abound, just like how masala movies rule the roost in BO despite critically acclaimed movies bombing big time, janaranjagam is always a winner in any form. Gold kooda copper mix panna thaan velaikaagathu. Terinju mix aana athu combination. Thirututhanama panna adulteration. Intha renduthukum nadula thaan ithana sandai and debate. Till the time people make up their mind, tribes of CB will continue to thrive.

1 comment:

Ramesh said...

To each his own taste and who is anybody to tell whether somebody else's taste is good or bad. I have no time for the snobbish literati who decry anything that does not have 100 unpronounceable words. Literature is what gives you joy and stimulates your thinking. It may be Jane Austen, it may be Chetan Bhagat, it may be a masala movie, whatever. They are all valuable, I would suggest and decrying any of them is pure snobbery.

By the way, 90% of those who sing Jane Austen's works have never read a line !!

PS - Who is Harris Jayaraj ??

PPS - I am still on strike, , especially against your movie reviews for the reasons I stated two posts ago !!