First published in Jammu Enquirer
Times of India had a full front page ad in August 2014 that screamed at the readers that India’s Greatest Writer is back. This great writer was none other than Chetan Bhagat. Framed with the head of Mr. Bhagat, the page advertised his new book called “Half Girlfriend.” Bhagat has over the last ten years spent a considerable amount of money on marketing and networking with the right people to constantly stay in the public eye such as his role as a narrator for a Narendra Modi documentary. His books’ titles range from ‘Five point someone’ to ‘Two states’ to ‘One night @call centre’. The only thing that one wonders is why Mr. Bhagat is fascinated with numerical titles. Other than that, nothing that Bhagat writes makes one wonder anything. He recently ventured into scriptwriting with the Salman Khan starrer ‘Kick’. The movie was a superhit not unlike any other Khan movie. It is said that Bollywood’s success lies in formulae scripts. What the input of the writer is in this situation, is yet to be known. But then one could argue that ‘3 Idiots’ was a successful movie based on Bhagat’s book. On ruffling through old news one could find that there was a controversy before ‘3 idiots’ was released about the amount of credit given to Chetan Bhagat because the producers felt that nothing in the movie was similar to the book. The script was redone by other writers and director Raj Kumar Hirani along with actor Aamir Khan had a big hand in shaping the story from a potboiler to a socially relevant message. Under the criterion of talent, India’s “greatest writer” should be deemed better than the award winning Amitav Ghosh, Jeet Thayil and Vikram Seth. However, Bhagat has never been equated with literature or awards. Ever since companies like Flipkart and Amazon have become a part of the publishing industry the success of a book depends more on strong marketing and very little on literary talent, and Mr. Bhagat always displays ample of the former and negligible of the latter.