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Monday, July 16, 2018

Writers’ Inc.

That writers are becoming central to the narrative of Hindi cinema is a welcome departure from the indifference they were treated with in the post Salim-Javed era

Written by Priyanka Sinha Jha | Mumbai | Updated: April 24, 2014 1:20:26 pm
The writer and the muse: Author Chetan Bhagat with Alia Bhatt and Arjun Kapoor, stars of 2 States The writer and the muse: Author Chetan Bhagat with Alia Bhatt and Arjun Kapoor, stars of 2 States

Author Chetan Bhagat’s 2 States, like most books written by him, is finally out there as a film. For someone who is not your conventional film writer—he is both an IIT and IIM graduate— Bhagat’s strike rate is quite remarkable. One Night at the Call Center flopped, 3 Idiots (Five Point Someone…) was a blockbuster, Kai Po Che (The Three Mistakes of My Life) a significant hit and 2 States is supposed to have notched up enough impressive numbers, what with its opening weekend collections being compared to that of 3 Idiots! In the last few years, he has been a common sight in the Bollywood landscape. Even as I write this, a few other works of Bhagat are under discussion for being turned into films, but what is truly interesting about the author is his innovative approach to a writing career.
I first came across Bhagat’s name when his debut novel Five Point Someone; What not do at IIT, landed on my table, I was then the editor of Society magazine. At that time, obviously nobody had heard of the author, but the IIT (I will explain this a little later) part got me curious enough to read the book.
Within my family circles, Indian Institute of Technology had the halo of that glorious institute, best known for being the preserve of super intelligent young people. Any family member who managed to clear the IIT entrance was deemed a genius, and hence my aforesaid curiosity.
So a book with an irreverent title suggesting that IITians could also have a lighter side to them, totally piqued my interest. Sure enough, the book was very engaging— in fact, on reading the book in one go, I promptly sent across a copy of the book to an aspiring director who was on the lookout for a good script. Given that his novel was a fresh entry and was fast climbing the bestseller list. We felicitated Bhagat with a Society Young Achiever’s Award much against the wishes of veteran writers and jury members, Tarun Tejpal and Tavleen Singh who thought his writing to be abysmal ( winners were decided after combining jury as well as popular votes). That’s all firmly in the past. A decade later, Bhagat has proved that he is no fluke, but a writer to take note of. What he may lack in his language, he more than makes up for with his connect, especially with the young.
Authors like Bhagat—and fortunately their numbers are on the rise—could well be an answer to the creativity crisis that plagues Bollywood from time to time. The film industry that has been struggling to generate sufficient original content could do with a little help from the literary world. Fortunately, with Bhagat as a shining example of films that work as successfully as their book version, published authors can now expect to be taken more seriously by the industry that had so far considered such works as way too high-brow and intellectual for the consumption of lowest common denominator that cinema caters to. This, despite the fact that a few of the timeless movie classics incidentally, have been based on works by renowned novelists—Devdas, Guide and Slumdog Millionaire among them. But then times are a changing. And quite evidently, the present times are good for all such experiments.
The grapevine has already been buzzing with news of Amish Tripathi’s Immortals of Meluha film rights being snapped up by Dharma Productions. Anuja Chauhan’s, The Zoya Factor has been doing the rounds as have a few others.
Considering that the present phase is being hailed as the best phase in Indian cinema, it is only befitting that writers are beginning to feature at the centre of the filmi narrative.

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