Chetan Bhagat is like, guess who? Don’t laugh, okay laugh – Charles Dickens; who was not only a writer but also a performer. He loved to read from his books, if it could be called ‘reading’. Dickens would act out all the parts, sometimes screaming, pleading and often sobbing.
When I went to pick up or rather kidnap Chetan Bhagat from the Writers’ Lounge at the Jaipur Literature Festival, his wife had him left in charge of his two sons who were busy with their iPads. When I convinced him to come with me to the newslaundry stall, he pointed out the food table and toilet to his sons, told a bewildered fellow writer to keep an eye on them and followed me. If there was ever a time I wished I had a camera, it was this. A mob of young girls with his books to sign, pounced on him. Far from being startled or snobbish, he reveled in it. As they mauled him, I shouted at the girls they would have to wait till after the interview and they should line up. Chetan then got into the act. He told the mob: “Okay, you are my bodyguards. Surround me and lead the way. Like Quaddafi. He always had female bodyguards. So I am Quaddafi and you are my guards.” When the girls slacked, he laughed and shouted at them, “What kind of guards are you? You are supposed to be in front, make people give way.” The girls blissed out.
For those who do not consider his work literature, think again. Salman Rushdie broke the ceiling using Hinglish and never bothered to translate like colonial and post-colonial writers had done. The natives (that is, us) were always explained to the white man. Rushdie threw away that yoke. Now Chetan Bhagat has done away with “good grammar” and writes in the colloquial manner he speaks. If your standard of literature is conservative, Bhagat is not for you. But if you want to open your mind to how the young people of India think and speak today, then Bhagat is your man. It takes courage to break away from the norm and take a huge risk of not being considered a “good” writer. But Bhagat is no fool. He took a calculated risk. He did understand that today’s young people were impatient with arched writing and snobbery.
When I first started Newstrack (video magazine) I was constantly told by the marketing department that I should get “professional” voice-overs narrating the stories. I fought hard, pointing out that these stories were done by journalists and the voice-overs with their various regional accents was where India was today. They were not convinced but I did not back down. They were used to Sudhir Dhar type of voices with British inflections. Today nobody notices the regional accents and many words are gloriously mispronounced creating our own Creole, or rather dialect of Hinglish. In fact, anyone with the colonial tone sounds pathetically out of place, phoney, and desperately pompous. As I told Shashi Tharoor, your accent dates you to an age that no longer connects.
So my generation voices their irritation with remixes of classics, overt sexuality and everything different from the age we grew up in. Despite my reluctance to bow to the tyranny of “cool”, I love what this gen is doing to our music, films and of course, writing. Write on, Bhagat. May you always be blessed with mobbing girls.
Image Source [http://www.flickr.com/photos/tnarik/366393127/]