'I'm a Very Flexible Author'

Chetan Bhagat speaks to Shyama Krishna Kumar about his new book release, movies and what sets him apart as a writer

Published: 27th September 2014 06:04 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th September 2014 10:38 AM   |  A+A-

Chetan-Bhagat.jpgBANGALORE: Meeting with us at the Flipkart office on Thursday, Chetan Bhagat looked self-assured and serene, clad in a crisp blue shirt and a Nehru jacket. The outfit that so many authors and celebrities seem to have adopted over the last year. A symbol of the intellect and suaveness. In Bangalore to attend the Bangalore Literature Festival that kicked off yesterday, Bhagat is also visiting Flipkart to oversee the biggest book release of his career.

“Logistically, it is the biggest pre-order for any product of any brand online. And Flipkart has taken it upon itself to ship out lakhs of copies of Half Girlfriend on October 1,” informs Bhagat.

“Lakhs of books have to be shipped out on the very same day. Not a day sooner or later. Everyone’s going to get it on the same day and reviews are going to come in simultaneously from all corners. It’s quite a huge deal,” he continues, almost betraying a sliver of nervousness.

Speaking about Half Girlfriend, Bhagat says, “It’s about English and its role in the society. It’s about a Bihari boy who falls in love with a girl who is way above his societal status. He can’t speak English.”

The author who has changed the face of Indian publishing, at least when it comes to sales, says after many surveys, he found that girls don’t want to date boys who don’t speak English.

Bhagat admits that he’s taken the longest time to write Half Girlfriend, almost three years, when compared to his other novels.

“It’s a challenge to write a book like this because the main character doesn’t speak English and the book is written in English. Also, the book is set in rural India, which I knew almost nothing about, and I was worried if my readers would be able to relate to a character like that,” says Bhagat, who The Guardian famously called ‘Bollywood’s Favourite Author’. 

Like most of his previous books, Half Girlfriend is also being turned into a movie. The rights were purchased even before the book hit the stands.

“I showed the book to director Mohit Suri (Ek Villain, Aashiqui 2) sometime back and he loved it. He said he knew the book will do well and wasn’t worried about picking it up before the release. He even wants me on board as co-producer,” he explains.

Bhagat, who has been credited to expand the market for Indian authors who write in English, believes that it’s imperative to  make the book work, instead of worrying about the movie that will come from it.

“The movie is just an adaptation. The book is the mother. The book delves into issues deeply, whereas the movie may not. Movies are only a part of my life, not all of it,” he adds.

He also believes that one of the main reasons so many of his books get turned into books is because he is a “flexible” author.

“Unlike most authors who hate having anything changed and get furious about the tiniest details being modified, I just want to see what Mohit’s vision and interpretation will be like,” he says.

Bhagat also reveals that he writes books so he can increase readership for his columns.

“It’s the model I follow to reach as many people as I can and then influence them through the columns. The columns are usually about the most-relevant or burning topics or about sections that need a voice, like women, youth or the gay community,” explains Bhagat, whose latest column titled Mr Mary Kom saw him urging men to contribute more in the household, be it chores, parenting or just supporting their wives.

Bhagat, who himself works out of his home while his wife is an investment banker, admits that he doesn’t do the “typical housewife work”, before quickly adding that he has no qualms about doing household work.

“I like it a lot actually. I’ve always told my wife that it’s up to her if she wants to work or not. She had twin boys. Normally when people have twins, they quit their jobs. But she wanted to continue and I supported her decision. So I may not be as great as Mr Mary Kom, but I make a decent Mr Chetan Bhagat,” he says with a laugh.


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