Updated: May 8, 2017 10:23:13 pm
Often criticised for his work, author Chetan Bhagat courted yet another controversy when Delhi University and announced his book Five Point Someone would be included in the syllabus for undergraduate students. The university’s English department has included the novel in the syllabus for the paper “Popular Fiction”, offered as an elective to students of honours courses other than English.
The announcement invited a lot of flak from various sections, with a section of teachers questioning the academic merit of the decision.
Bhagat, however, finds the criticism surprising and scary at the same time. The author, while talking to indianexpress.com, said that the negative response stems from people’s disregard for popular fiction.
“I am just surprised. Firstly, I am honoured. It’s a course on popular fiction. It has been included in that course, not in world’s best books. So, if it’s a course on popular fiction will you put the most popular writer in India or not? If you are doing a course on popular cinema, will you watch Salman Khan’s films or not? Or will you say no I will not watch Salman Khan’s films? And that is where the lack of understanding of what is going on and how literature is divided into different branches. There’s classics, popular fiction. That scares me.”
The writer added that many times “literature experts” have killed the aspirations of those, who wanted to write popular fiction. “These are people who claim to be experts in literature but they don’t understand the difference and how many writers they have killed in class who wanted to write popular fiction but they were told, ‘No, you can’t talk like this, only talk about classics.’ This is a bit scary that this is what they have done,” he said.
Besides this, Bhagat also finds himself at the centre of another row — he has been accused of plagiarism. Writer Anvita Bajpai has claimed that “characters, places and emotional flow” of Bhagat’s latest book, One Indian Girl, have been lifted from one of her books Life, Odds and Ends, a copy of which she had reportedly gifted to the author during Bengaluru Literature Festival in 2014.
She has filed a lawsuit in a Bengaluru court which has granted temporary injunction restraining sales of One Indian Girl. Calling her allegations “nonsensical,” Bhagat said that such incidents set wrong precedents in cases of plagiarism.
“It’s really unfortunate. A lot of legal experts have written articles calling it a bogus case. I personally haven’t read the book but my legal team has prepared the responses and she is putting some nonsensical allegations like there is Facebook in my book and her book. She has taken a court route for it so even we have to. She has chosen a time when court goes on vacation. So, we have to wait. It is sad because of tomorrow there will be a genuine case of plagiarism and people will look at it with suspicion. Firstly I will never do it. That’s not me.”
Taking the thought forward, he says, “And secondly it will be a stupid thing to do to take her published work and copy it. Considering, I utter one tweet and get attacked, imagine if I dared to copy something. It is nonsensical. People are writing in my support. It is a bogus case. We will take her to task,” he said.
But while the book is facing a roadblock, this doesn’t seem to stop the author from having bigger aspirations for it. When asked if he has any plan to turn One Indian Girl into a film, Bhagat said, “Maybe. But I will figure out…”
It has become a ritual of sorts that as soon as Bhagat’s novel hits the shelves, the discussion sparks about making into a film. Five of his seven books have had their film adaptations.
In fact, critics say that Bhagat writes for the movies. The author, of course, begs to differ.
“No. I just write a story I like. There’s no pressure because if there are some changes to be made (when a book is adapted into a movie) they will be done. But I don’t write stories tailor-made for films. Maybe my style of writing is film like, that’s why (people say this). Like I wrote One Indian Girl, I didn’t write keeping in mind which actress can play it. I wrote it because I wanted to.”
But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have names in mind who he think can play the protagonist in this novel, if it is made into a movie. “A lot of girls can do justice to the character. But I wouldn’t like to take any name. I will leave that to the director.”
Currently, the writer is geared up for the release of Half Girlfriend, an adaptation of his 2014 romantic novel by the same name. The film, starring Shraddha Kapoor and Arjun Kapoor, has been helmed by Mohit Suri.
Bhagat is all praise for the director and said that Mohit’s sensibilities were apt for a story like Half Girlfriend. “I had been wanting to work with Mohit for a long time. He makes really nice love stories with great music. Half Girlfriend is an intense story and Mohit was perfect for this film.”
Half Girlfriend, also co-produced by Bhagat, releases on May 19.
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