By Sohini Ghosh:
So, the connoisseur of Indian love stories with the oh-so-tasteful dramatisation is back at work again, this time taking the avatar of a so-called ‘Half Girlfriend’. As perplexed as this title leaves me, it has undoubtedly latched onto the imagination of a major chunk of the youth, looking for a quick fix of cheap literature. Who cares for quality literature when there is a proud bearer of a legacy unmatched in Chetan Bhagat A.K.A the Yash Chopra of our Indian literature, painting mustard fields for our wayward romantic daydreams and raunchy fantasies to play out with much abandon?
Half is the new full? What does the title of his 7th novel even signify? Can we actually address someone as half girlfriend? As Chetan Bhagat has always been a serious trendsetter, there is an extremely high probability that this new jargon would catch up too, as soon as the book hits the shelves in October, if not sooner. He has been an iconic figure in his proclivity to propagate a sea change in India’s reading culture, but that has been at a cost. When ‘Five point someone’ and ‘One night at the call Centre’ had been published, I clearly remember how popular it became among my classmates and contemporaries courtesy the explicitly choreographed sexual exploits. It was the first time that a subject of such taboo had been made available for the masses and the scavengers that we are, we took the bait. Hook, line and sinker. People took to reading like the fish takes to the water and the bird to the sky. And mind it, for the ‘non-literary’ people, reading soon comprised of Chetan Bhagat, a little more of Chetan Bhagat, and some more of Chetan Bhagat.
No sooner was the announcement made public (Times of India being the good Samaritan, it did not escape us what you did there), the social network was thrown in a frenzy, perhaps synonymous with the icons similar to KRK or Honey Singh’s stature, each taking to their wittiest best garb. ROFLIndia took to twitter opining:
Dear Flipkart, I’m trying to imagine half girlfriend added to a cart and trust me, the sight is terribly amusing.
– Rofl Indian (@Roflindian) August 5, 2014
This doesn’t even begin to describe the plethora of tweets one would come across. A few of the precious best have been summed up here.
He is one of those authors who write a story so paltry, as common as a common cold and yet never fail to churn them as a bestseller. The secret perhaps lie in the common teenagers’ woes so lasciviously woven that Indian adolescents can connect with so effortlessly. This management graduate had found the precise nerve to hit on for the young, almost pubescent India back in 2004 with his first book “Five point Someone”.Â It is often a no-brainer as to what the story would be about. A girl. A boy. A chance encounter. Awkward moments. Soon turns to Lots of love (LOL). Truckloads of obstacles (often includes a second guy or some parental figure). All obstacles miraculously taken care of. And voila, they lived happily ever after!
It is a quick fix like M-seal and while all those who are reading his work often condemn the standards, they themselves are unable to resist from indulging in a little double standard and good old guilty pleasure every once in a while.
While we indulge ourselves, there is this bespectacled guy spinning moolah oh-so-green with book and film royalties feeding on our need to be optimistic. And if that wasn’t conspicuous enough, he decides to show solidarity for our fellow beings who have been friend-zoned so conveniently (the colloquial term as it is) by titling his next as the ‘Half Girlfriend’. I can’t fathom here who it reflects more poorly on. Him, and his increasingly manipulative efforts while taking cheap pot-shots at young love – something he trivialises or chooses to desensitise in this time of over-sexualisation, particularly with respect to India, Or we, the readers who encourage him and his rather warped imagination to spin more of such mind-numbingly repetitive stories.
He has come a long way from his IIM days, but his writing, at best, is ordinary. And ordinary is in! As a writer, he works on a well built PR-machinery, as could be seen from his marketing strategies, and capitalises on the latest fad of books being adapted to films. He would have chosen better had he taken up script writing professionally, because more often than not, it almost seems that he writes while keeping the plot of a film in mind.
We have to admit though that despite much criticism and ridicule, here is one guy who has stood the test of time and as much as we would love to be polarised on his writing skills and the ancillaries he surely knows, ignoring him would be a hard task, a fact that he regularly banks on.