#Famous-People #Youth Opinion

Chetan Bhagat and Co. vs. The Elite Readers Who Love to Hate Them


“He is happy until he forms a relationship with a female named Avantika.” — This is a sentence in the publicly-published synopsis of the seemingly awesome and well-loved (and well-hated, for some) book Of Course I Love You… Till I Find Someone Better by Durjoy Datta. Just one phrase—“female named Avantika”—appears to be a far more apt synopsis of this book. It infuriated me, that the book’s synopsis should refer to a girl as a “female”—a word of biology—rather than as a “girl” (or something more respectable), a word of a civilised society.

What I write here is about books and authors of young 21st century India. No, not the elite literary kind, like Ashwin Sanghi, Amitav Ghosh, or Booker Prize winning Aravind Adiga and Kiran Desai. I am talking of the books which the true readers of literature (the ones that call themselves the “elite” readers) love to hate: books with titles that contain the word “love”, or titles with spicy and colloquial words like “Oh shit!” and “Ouch!” I’m talking of books written by 20-something authors, who have announced their presence in multitude to the world through Rs 100 novellas at bookstores, with filmy stories that appeal to the masses, and which bear a “bestseller” tag probably right since release. These authors were possibly inspired by the Chetan Bhagat fever. Why is it, that while the stories are trash for some, they are the sole testimony of being “readers” for others?

It appears, that more a sophisticated reader you are, the more fashionable it is to publicly loathe such books and authors. As Harsh Snehanshu—a young author from IIT Delhi, the author of Oops! I Fell In Love!, who I know well professionally—said once (screenshot), bloggers love to preach their hate against such authors only for traffic. There is an idea that most bloggers, being young writers as well, are probably envious of the success the young published authors like Bhagat and Datta get, and that is why they “love to hate”, instead of just “hate” their work.

There is this incredibly articulate work (one of the best-written and intellectually-worded articles I have read) by Siddhartha Mukherjee on NTMN: “Chetan Bhagat: A Ripped-Apart Author Review” (read). Although I find the article a work of hyperbole at places, I do not entirely disagree. Nor do I entirely agree. The article is at places a harshly insensitive criticism on Bhagat, yet it reflects smartly the sentiments of the “other” young India—the ones which do not like to read the authors in question.

The Case Against The Young Authors: (I will refer to such young authors as “Yet Another Author”, their books as “Yet Another Book”, and their haters as the “Elite”.)

The Yet Another Books, represent similar storylines with semblance to movies with more songs than a story.

1. Market Value versus Literary Value: The common thought is that the Yet Anothers write for the masses, not for literature. Their work has no value in literature. They just intend quick fame and money. They get a lot of fan following at an early age. In his article, Mukherjee uses Chetan Bhagat to describe their books as “printed business models”, rather than works of literature.

2. The Objectification of Girls: Sophisticated feminists believe as a stereotype that Yet Anothers often contain vulgar unnecessary accounts of erotica and anatomy, with only female characters as the principal object of description. Even the idea of love in such books is misleading and least like true love, as is shown by the title of this book itself: Of Course I Love You… Till I Find Someone Better. This is a sentiment with some basis. It is accepted that while a majority of young females fantasise of romantic love, the majority of young males spend most of their college life fantasising about girls, not romance, and sex, not love. This difference of gender is reflected in our novels.

3. Themes Which Suit Movies More Than Books: The stories of such books are often works that should rather have been movie storylines. Writing them in form of books is offensive to literature. The books are often described as “cheap” or “spicy”, and do not have anything of substance.

Let’s Weigh and Judge:

Let me make it clear that I have not read a Yet Another Book after the first three Chetan Bhagat books. I bought those three books for train journeys, since I consider them similar to spicy and engaging movies, meant as a pastime—not as part of my usual reading habits. I consider myself a sophisticated reader all right, but I do not “love to hate” the Yet Anothers. But, I do not like the idea of reading them, yes.

Having said this, I believe the Elite are all mistaken somewhere. Firstly, let’s talk of the storyline. Honestly, women have been objectified right through the history of literature, art, and in fact, the whole of civilisation—this is a social truth. I do not advocate objectification of the female gender, but certainly I believe that many classics of literature are as flawed as these books are, in this respect. However, it must be noted, that a classic is more likely to have been written in a much more mature and artistic manner, than what the new-India books writes about gender differences. While the best literature presents gender and sexuality because they are a social truth (and art is nothing but a translation of social truths into imagination), the Yet Anothers present such descriptions more because the authors want to make it interesting for the reader. And therein lies the difference between the two: the purpose, not the vulgarity per se.

Chetan Bhagat, the pioneer of young literature in India, inspired some amateur writers to try and taste success by penning down stories.

Yes, these stories are nothing short of movies. Their synopses are enough to give one this idea. They are written to be read by an audience that does not read. Yes, they mean business at the cost of quality. They will entertain you as long as you read them. But consider the authors who wrote them. They are young human beings, and I believe they wrote the work with a great deal of hard work. To set down to write, even what the Elite would call a cheap novel, is not an easy task. It is not that they delivered bad quality content: they may not compare with the classic description of love as in Gone With the Wind or erotica as in Lolita (that is, if only love and women be the theme of these books as a rule), but they appeal to a large portion of young India! The ones who like to read them, actually connect with them, and that is just where an author should be called “good”! They are not good when you compare them with the classics of the times of To Kill A Mockingbird and David Copperfield, but these authors never even intended to be of that category! They had a story in mind, and they wrote it down; they got it published, and are today loved by thousands of the college-going India. Do they really care for your hate? They needn’t. They didn’t write for the Elite, maybe. They are not bad writers and their books aren’t bad: they CONNECT with people; if their literature doesn’t, their stories do. Their books are not good works of literature, but they are books all right, and have a tremendous readership. You always have the right to not read them.

The authors like Bhagat, Datta and Snehanshu are youth icons, having got for themselves fame and love for what they liked best: writing. Let’s find inspiration in them, if not their work. Let’s applaud them for their spirit. Try to do something out of the box while at college, or just after college, when the world expects you to do your job for your first employer seriously. And then one can realise what it takes.

Criticism is a static truth like change is. But “loving to hate” a person who is doing the respectable job of writing and storytelling, that of enthralling young audiences, that of following their dream, is probably not fair. Let us not read them or call them works of literature if we do not want to, but they are works of writing. The Elite should not defame works of expression in the manner they do; they may just ignore or hate, not “love to hate and ignore” as a rule. Because when you “love to hate” something, you end up being unable to ignore it! In addition, it is VERY possible, that we miss out on a good work of literature out of being judgemental about such books. Such authors might even mature gradually into classic-writers about two decades later! The point is, if one can express, they can always improve with time into the annals of sophistication.


About the author

Tanay Sukumar

I founded this website in 2009. I served as Editor-in-Chief from November 2009 to May 2013.
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1 Comment

  • Hi Guys,

    I felt a bit guilty earlier about commenting in a post on Chetan Bhagat’s writing skills…Writing alone does not make a writer isnt it? I bought the Revolution 2020 book and read it fully, finished it just an hour ago…

    Now i clearly understood that it is not the writing skills critics hate most about CB. I have come to the conclusion that CB does not have any clue on the subtleties of life….For example, when love comes, it does not allow a person to control his destiny…It will do whatever it likes and sweep the person off his feet….In this book however I was pained to read CB allow Gopal to TAKE DECISIONS ON LOVE for the benefit of the overall good of the nation!

    By the way, love cleanses and also transforms…If Gopal’s love for Arti is justified, the same love could have made him totally a clean, uncorrupt man…there is no justification of loss or love or transfer of love in this book.

    Like a good investment banker Chetan Bhagat trades love, invests, transfers, gains rebate, sacrifices etc….

    He goes about chapters like university course assignments…i enjoyed a parts of the novel but overall I hated to know about Chetan Bhagat’s mind….he looked like a employee looking for a job salary raise to me…He used this book to hopefully get another movie maker come to him.

    Writing friends, is noble and often sprouts out if the author is tremendously pained or joyed or transformed….V.S. Naipaul ended writing when he felt that he will not do justice to writing…

    Chetan Bhagat embraces writing like an everyday job – we have accepted commercialization in many aspects of life…I hate to believe that writing is commercialized this way because the power of writing can kill or create….

    Chetan Bhagat should take a few years off from writing now…He has won fame and money…He needs to sort out in his mind why he enjoys writing? What is the dying need for him to write so often? If he sorts that out and really feels a need to create, let him come back…I will buy his book and pray that he gets better as a writer.

    Lots of absolute mess this book is….adding to more chaos in the world, anyway cant help it, what has to happen will happen.
    Thanks,
    Jagadeesh

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