The Writers' Community on Chetan Bhagat
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Literary World on Chetan Bhagat
"It's our thesis that he has done publishing and writing in English in India a lot of good by opening up the world of books written in English to much larger audiences. People who are intimidated by the literary novels, people who dream and swear in other languages, young ones who would only otherwise watch TV or the movies; they're reading him in droves, and looking forward to his next book.
We were wondering if you'd like to comment on that, or indeed about Chetan Bhagat and his work in general. Positive, negative, nuanced, ambivalent; whatever works for you."
Here are extracts from some of their replies:
His significance has less to do with what or how he writes than the fact that an audience exists for his kind of writing.
-Manjula Padmanabhan, writer and artist
Bhagat hit an audience, which is first generation English readers, the books are cleverly placed at a decent price point, very good distribution and marketing.
He's also picked subjects that work for that audience. Incidentally I quite liked Five point..., the first book, because he caught something of the tech hostel atmosphere with its skewed gender ratios and its tunnel-vision bright kids. I reviewed that for Outlook.
One interesting factor — pre ...Call Centre, the concept of reading simply for pleasure and fluency didn't exist. The average aspirational middle class kid would have been discouraged from wasting time reading "story books". Post ...Call Centre, there's a host of kids who have twigged that fluency has a direct correlation to getting a decent job. Some have been forced to read because of the job and its insistence on developing cultural familiarity with the US or wherever. So in that sense, he's tapped the first generation, which is perhaps reading "story books" in English as "timepass".
Another part of the puzzle — there are actually far more young people living on their own now and that means more time to read — it's considered rude to read in most crowded middle-class homes when you could actually be discussing f***-all with your parents and siblings instead or vegging in front of the TV.
More power to him — I think he's a crappy writer but I also think he's a less crappy writer than Sidney Sheldon or Jacqueline Suzanne to name a couple of crappy best "sellerites" of previous generations. In terms of themes and milieus (rather than plotlines), I wish more skilled writers had tackled the same milieus. Maybe they will eventually?
- Devangshu Datta, columnist, reviewer and author, wrote one of the first reviews of Five Point Someone
Chetan Bhagat does not claim to be anything but an entertaining, accessible writer who writes for the young and aspirational. He has become astoundingly successful at it. He also has a keen sense of marketing and a publishing house that appreciates it, and both have done very well by it. We writers (and publishers) would do well to acknowledge this complete lack of pretension; and display of professionalism.
- Sudeep Chakravarti, author of the non-fiction work Red Sun: Travels in Naxalite Country, and two novels, Tin Fish and Once Upon a Time in Aparanta.