I am not here to be liked by everyone- Chetan Bhagat
39-year-old Indian investment banker-turned-novelist Chetan Bhagat has touched the pulse of India’s youth with six bestselling novels. He talks to Women Talk Online about his first screenplay for the Salman Khan starrer, Kick.
Women Talk Online: They say that thanks to you people in India have started reading books again. What kind of topics did you choose to make your books popular?
Chetan Bhagat: Well, it would be an exaggeration to say that people have started reading books because of me! People have always been reading books, but I guess the reason why Indians read my books are because I write about Indians, our life, our problems, love, issues and how to solve them. The books are based on characters that come from their middle class and their story resonates with them, which is probably why they have touched the readers and have made the books popular.
Tell us about your latest project.
I recently wrote the screenplay for the movie Kick starring Salman Khan. I had the chance to do the screenplay because the producer-director called me and they said that they wanted a novelist’s perspective in the story. So, I think that is a very interesting experiment we have done, and let’s see how that plays out. I also have a new book coming out in October. It is the story of a rural boy and an urban girl, where I have tried to bring out the moral issues in the rural offsets of India.
What was the inspiration behind writing the screenplay for Kick?
The inspiration for the screenplay was the actor Salman Khan himself. Kick is called so because it is the story of this man who lives for his kick, who lives for a high, who lives for his adrenaline rush, and that’s all he wants in life and to me Salman is like that in real life also. He does things because he gets a kick out of them.
What was the best part of the journey writing the screenplay?
It was a collaborative process. I was actually used to writing novels and it can be a very solitary and lonely journey, whereas in a screenplay you work with a team, so you are working with a director, producer, dialogue writers, other people, actors and they all are working towards the same goal, everybody is focused on the concept of the film. So there are more people you share your nervousness and excitement. For me that is the best part of writing the screenplay. And for this year, it is easily the most awaited movie, so to be a part of such a prestigious project was very exciting.
What is the difference between writing a book and writing a screenplay?
One is of course the collaboration, books are lonely journeys and both have their pros and cons. The second is that a screenplay is far more compact, it is around one-fourth the size of a book in terms of length, which poses its own challenges, because you have to convey everything in a very small space of time.
You said in a previous interview that your books work towards changing the mindset of your readers. How do you think the mindset about women and how they are treated can be changed in India?
It is difficult and it is a big issue. Although we tend to focus more on a very gruesome kind of crime that happened, in general women suffer far more, maybe not in a criminal manner, but in terms of the discrimination they face in being in a very patriarchal, traditional society, I think the solution will come from the women themselves, there is no group which is subjugated or no minority group which has come up without the group themselves deciding to empower themselves.
In numerous articles I have written about Indian women, I have said the need that they are not in this world to please everybody, to assert themselves, to not try and strive for approval from every human being they would meet. Some of the issues are very women specific, and women tend to be that way and some of it is our Indian society, but the answer if you ask me, comes from women themselves.
Would such a woman-based story be in the cards for your coming projects?
Yes, I do want to write from a female first person point of view one day, that has always been a dream, I don’t know if I will be able to but let’s see.
You are active on Twitter @chetanbhagat, and your tweets often generate a lot of talk and controversy. Why is that?
Well, my follower count is quite high. Normally celebrities with such a high follower count normally will not take on issues that are controversial. They tend to only talk about their work or say very neutral things, like “Save the girl child,” “prevent AIDS,” “cure cancer.” But they will not take a stand on political issues, issues that can polarize. But, I do, because I am a columnist as well, one of my jobs is give my opinion on what I feel.
Sometimes people may not like them. But it’s ok. I am not here to be liked by everyone. I am here to give my independent view, my conviction and that is why I have a fan following. It has happened only three or four times in the last couple of years whereas I tweet about hundreds of issues. So, I think it’s ok. You can’t go around abusing or bullying people on twitter because you don’t like what they are saying. It is a democracy, and everybody is allowed to give their opinion.
Interview: Roma Rajpal
Editor: Manasi Gopalakrishnan
Roma Rajpal Weiss is a freelance journalist and Blogger based in Bonn. She can be followed @romarajpal.
Date31.07.2014 | 11:55