The New Era Of ‘Literature’ In India

Posted on July 15, 2012 in Culture-Vulture

By Gauri Jagatap:

Some of the greatest names of Indian literature today are Salman Rushdie, Amitav Ghosh, Jhumpa Lahiri, Arundhati Roy, Aravind Agiga to name a few. Not only have they brought international honors and accolades back home, they have, through their ideas, inspired millions alike. Since ancient times, we’ve seen a league of dynamic authors and writers, the most prominent ones being R.K. Narayan, Ruskin Bond, etc.

However, of late, Indian literature, especially fiction, has seen a whopping change. And it started with the Rupa & Co. published Chetan Bhagat’s bestseller Five Point Someone. Not only did it become a college cult, it led to the highest earning Bollywood movie of all time, the Aamir Khan starrer 3 Idiots.

Following this we saw a spurt of new, young authors. The styles followed by them are more screen-play like instead of the usual dramatic, poetic and literary. The bunch of new authors include Preeti Shenoy (Life Is What You Make It), Ravinder Singh (I Too Had A Love Story), Sudeep Nagarkar (Few Things Left Unsaid) et al.

Amazingly and economically priced at fewer than 150 bucks, most of them prove as an easy and light read. Most are inspired by day to day life and actually give readers a slice of their own life. Simple plots, up-to-date humor and a high level of association with their own lives make them instant bestsellers.

College romances, misadventures, business forays, job startups build up a sub-reality which the audience has willingly lapped up. In such a scenario, it is actual appreciation of literature that starts being questioned.
A similar phenomenon can be seen in films. Art-house films and candy-floss films.

Most of these new generation books are works of people who have not even remotely pursued literature in any form.

One has to agree, that these very books which reach out to millions of young readers, have immense power to influence them. However, the degree of writing is strictly simple and layman. These very books have been referred to by critics as ‘fast-food literature’. In spite of such criticism, such books have found a growing audience and a place in hearts of several people.

Probably it’s a changing culture. An always on-the-run individual would rather flip through 200 pages filled with breezy life-like situations instead wading through of a more methodical and factual Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The competition provided by foreign authors is huge. While genres like fantasy, crime and adventure have been dealt with extensively, Indian authors have barely made a foray into these areas.

The international market has set a huge benchmark. While Britain has come up with Harry Potter, US gave its answer with Twilight. And these books have found a craze in our country as well. However, Indian authors as such, have not shown much enthusiasm to replicate that level of enthusiasm.

A few have definitely shown promise, though. The Immortals of Meluha being a good example. This book by Amish Tripathi, is the first of the Shiva trilogy which has been touted as India’s answer to The Lord Of The Rings. And though it did have its own share of controversies, the series has sold lakhs of copies across India.

At the end of the day, the average Indian bookworm finds umpteen excuses to dissolve into another world that a book unfolds. And as R.D. Cumming says, “A good book has no ending”, there is no ending to the number of good books either.

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Aakanksha

A well written article. I fully agree with you that the status of literature in Indian literature is eroding. I find many of the books written today by Indian authors quite substandard. Just because a book is popular doesn’t mean that it is good. There is some sort of thought process, a good writing style and various ideas that can even make a popular work of fiction a good read.

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