Why We Love to Hate Birthday Boy Chetan Bhagat
On the birthday of India’s biggest selling English language novelist, take a look at why we love to hate him.
Imagine waking up on your birthday to a Rs 1 crore defamation suit. Just one of those days when you feel glad you aren’t Chetan Bhagat. While the timing of the news of the defamation case against Bhagat by a royal family in Bihar was purely coincidental, most people would have grinned at the popular writer being put in a spot again. Because we love to hate Chetan Bhagat.
And it’s because he’s one amongst us 50 million odd middle-class Indians who actually ‘made it’ and continues to be celebrated as a best-selling English author despite his unremarkable writing. Now that much could still be forgiven. But the problem is the writer isn’t stopping at that – Bhagat has today set up a mini empire for himself called Chetan Bhagat Entertainment Pvt Ltd, no less, which handles the varied talents of Bhagat also as a screenwriter, columnist, popular speaker, TV host and now reality show judge. Phew!
But he’s still the regular Punjabi guy from Delhi who would be wide-eyed in the company of Bollywood stars. See!
There have been several articles, blogs and reviews that have time and again highlighted Bhagat’s success as the celebration of mediocrity in Indian popular culture, much like Rohit Shetty’s Rs 100 crore blockbusters and Honey Singh’s relentless chartbusters. And he does make it a point to get back at people who pick on him:
But the element in his personality that seems to get everyone’s goat is just how seriously he takes himself. His columns in a leading national daily get periodically ripped apart for taking the tone of an authority on everything from politics to agriculture to business. He’s been criticized for being a self-appointed mentalist – because Chetan Bhagat knows what Women want, he knows what Muslims feel and he knows exactly what the Youth wants and feels.
All this, coming from a guy who gets regularly trolled on Twitter. Remember #chetanblocks? And his random Father’s Day tweet, which caused outrage. And his tweet on rape and the rupee that drew blood online. And his tweet on Gaza, which again irked the Twitterverse. Though Chetan deleted one or more of those tweets, he is still smarting from all the flak online:
Even Bollywood started smarting from Chetan Bhagat’s smugness. I am not talking about the incident in which Gulzar publicly rebuked the author. Bhagat not only bagged a sweet deal from Balaji Telefilms for the filming rights of his novel Half Girlfriend but also has a share in the profits of the film having been roped in as co-producer on the project. Once this deal came through Bhagat apparently, pulled back the rights of an earlier novel, which lay with another studio, quoting an exorbitant price for it. This at a time when the film was all set to go on the floors. Also now Bhagat reportedly wants to have a final say in matters like casting and the choice of director too on all his projects.
So why we love to hate Chetan Bhagat is not so much because he is a bad writer, it’s because he is not only unapologetic about it but also thrives on it.
A mention in Time magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the world, a Filmfare award and other honours apart, there’s a lot else the birthday boy really needs to do.
(This article is from The Quint’s archives and was first published on April 22, 2015. It is now being republished to mark Chetan Bhagat’s birthday.)
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