Wednesday, November 23, 2011

As the fifth day approached, the Sharjah International Book Fair invited renowned literary Indian author Chetan Bhagat on Monday, 21st November 2011. 

Known as the "biggest selling English language novelist in India’s history" Chetan Bhagat has five bestselling novels to his credit including his latest release Revolution 2020: love, corruption, ambition currently selling thousands of copies in the international market.

The programme welcomed hundreds of students from various local schools who gathered at the book fair to listen Mr. Bhagat's motivational talk on "how students can make most of their student lives" by highlighting his own experiences and his slow but rewarding climb to success. 

Chetan Bhagat gives a motivational talk to students on how they can make the most of their student lives
Photo by Christine Cherian
He spoke about his very first novel and his repeated attempts to get it published. The first book he wrote was Five Point Someone which is based on three of his friends whom he worked with at the bank. On completion of his first book, he decided to get it published and the first publishing company that he approached declined to publish his book, reasoning that "Indians don’t read books". 

On hearing this Chetan didn’t lose any hope as he tried another publishing company but was refused once again as the publisher left him with words that he still remembers, “we publish a book if we feel it will sell a 1000 copies. Yours won’t”

This also did not diminish his hopes of getting his book published instead he made a list of everyone he knew which totaled to 200 people who agreed to buy his book and went back to the publisher saying, “I’ve gathered 200, could you at least arrange for the rest 800 readers.” 

Unfortunately it didn't work out and Chetan kept on trying different companies hoping one of them would be ready to take a risk on him and his book. Finally after trying his luck with nine different publishing companies and he found his luck with Rupa and company, which till date is his publisher.

Chetan Bhagat talks to Manipal University, Dubai at the Sharjah International Book Fair
Photo by Fathima Layeek

When asked what he felt about the film adaptions of his literary works, Mr. Bhagat commented that he finds the literary world cinema his extracurricular activity, "I am still not a Bollywood person but I find it easy because I am comfortable with Hindi.  Also I see a lot of value in it as I want my stories to reach as many Indians as possible and films give me that chance,”

“It’s not possible for any author to write a book thinking that it will be a movie, it’s quite the other way round, the kind of stories I write work very well as movies so that’s how it’s happening, it’s not any intentional effort as such.”

Not very certain about writing a screenplay out of his book, 'Two states: the story of my life', Mr. Bhagat said that he would be very obliged to help the director, by writing it with him or by reviewing the screenplay written by the writer. Terming it a very difficult exercise Mr. Bhagat said it takes a different skill, as the script is written from the actor and directors point of view and doesn't involve any thoughts of the narrator. According to Mr. Bhagat a book is 80,000 words and a script is 20,000 words that way 75 percent of the written material goes away in screenplay writing.

As most of his books are conceptual, and are based on social issues like corruption and inter caste marriage, when asked what influences him to take up such a critical genre Mr. Bhagat said, “Well it’s mostly the change happening in India. The young people of India make up a large part of my reader base, and are also my inspiration. I write to bring about a change in the way people think and whatever issues I feel strongly about are reflected in my writing.”

Department of Media and Communications with Indian author, Chetan Bhagat
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When asked to share a few thoughts with the media students of Manipal University, Dubai Mr. Bhagat appreciated and advised them to work hard to become media professionals for the media plays a very important role in changing society.

Report by Fathima Layeek and Mary Joy