Friday, October 21, 2011

Chetan Bhagat a new discovery for me

Some of my readers must cringe a bit when I write about Bollywood. It reminds me that my parents used to eat at a Chinese restaurant for several years without ever trying Chinese food . Then one time they were persuaded to try Chinese food.   It was like a religious conversion and the whole family looked forward to our Chinese meals.

When I first heard of Chetan Bhagat I easily forgot his name. He was somehow involved with one of my favorite Bollywood movies, "Three Idiots". It sounded like some old writer was complaining that he was not being given credit for his contributions to the movie.   In the end he was not credited with the final script. Since then all the biographies you might read of him credit his "Five Point Someone" with inspiring the movie.

I stumbled on an online video interview with Chetan and first was surprised he was more of what might be called a young writer. He seemed stoical about his problems with Bollywood and understands how it works. He is in talks with Bollywood producers about a number of his books being made into movies.

I thought he was worth exploring a bit more. He graduated from mechanical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology (which undoubtedly provided background for "Five. Something" subsequently adapted for "Three Idiots"). He then went to the Indian Institute of Management and afterwards moved to Hong Kong for 11 years as an invesment banker. His romance with his wife Anusha, a Tamil is the basis for" 2 States". They have twin boys. In 2009 they left Hong Kong for Mumbai and he became devoted to writing full time. Since then has written a number of best selling books in India. The local library had only one title so I grabbed it. "one night @ a call center" is easy to read and it is hard not to laugh. He starts out differently than most books I have read. He actually gets started by asking the reader to write down the answer to three questions. what do you fear, what makes you angry and what don't you like about yourself. The characters in the book all exhibit different answers to these questions, but at the end the good guys and girls all move forward.

Before you get to the story he frames it in an interesting way and then at the end closes the frame in a clever manner after you thought the story was over. The book is not only funny, but will make you think. It is written with a Indian perspective (which means there is an anti-American bias).

Make sure you do not skip over the acknowledgements--it is as funny as anything in the book.

The one Bollywood movie acknowledged with Chetan was "Hello", an adaptation of "one night@ a call center." A few changes were made, but it seemed faithful to the dynamics of the book. Ironically one of the main characters, Sharman Joshi was one of "The Three Idiots"

I look forward to reading more Chetan Bhagat novels and the movies adapted from them. The word is out that "The 3 Mistakes of My Life", "2 States" and "Revolution 2020" are at various negotiation stages with Bollywood producers.

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