That’s Chetan Bhagat’s reaction to the online controversy over his debut novel being taught at Delhi University; reveals two more of his books will be adapted into films
Sanyukta Iyer (MUMBAI MIRROR; May 5, 2017)

A month after Chetan Bhagat’s debut novel, Five Point Someone, was included in the popular fiction syllabus of the general elective course offered to second-year students under the Choice-Based Credit System (CBCS) at the Delhi University, the trolls haven’t stopped crucifying him. And the 43-year-old bestselling author, who is presently in London delivering lectures at the Imperial College and Cambridge University on the ways of modern Indian writing and film adaptations, is amused by the online outrage.

“I manage to stir people up just by being who I am,” he laughs, saying he is honoured by DU’s decision and can’t understand why for the first time the University’s syllabus is being discussed in such detail. “When teaching a course on popular fiction, wouldn’t you want students to read the highest selling English writer in the country? My books are already a part of the curriculum in many schools and colleges so it’s not a radical change after all. Of course, our elite believe good literature only existed 200 years ago and it cannot be a novel that has sold five million copies in India. I shudder when I think of how many budding writers were killed in the classroom because their language was not believed to match up to our elevated literary standards,” Chetan argues.

The author returns to Mumbai this weekend to join actors Arjun Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor, the lead pair of Half Girlfriend (the film adaptation of his 2014 bestseller by the same name), for the relaunch of the novel with the actors on the new cover. A musical concert is also being planned in the capital with Chetan in attendance. And buzz is, he will be seen in the opening sequence of the film too?

“Not true,” Chetan asserts. “My books always open with the protagonist meeting the author, it’s a writing device I always use. But it doesn’t adapt well on screen. I never wanted to act in the film anyway,” he says matter-of-factly.

He goes on to inform that as a hands-on co-producer, he’s made multiple discussions with director Mohit Suri on how to adapt the book on screen. “This is my fifth film adaptation and understand that while I remain close to my material, I also need to detach myself when needed. I do what is right for the film and not for my ego.”

Prod him for details on the ideation and scripting stages of the film, and he admits that he suggested changes to writer Tushar Hiranandani and Mohit, being a democratic director, listened to everyone’s suggestions and incorporated the ones that worked for him.

Chetan insists that this growing camaraderie between him and Mohit could lead to another collaboration soon. Will Arjun, who also featured in the film adaptation of 2 States, join in for a hattrick? "Arjun and I are quite similar. We've both been scorned and laughed at for real and understand the nature of this business. Mohit jokes that Arjun's real half girlfriend is Chetan Bhagat!" he exclaims, adding that Half Girlfriend will pave the way forward for his upcoming productions. "I want to co-produce the film adaptations of both One Indian Girl and Revolution 2020,” he says, admitting that even though No One Killed Jessica director Raj Kumar Gupta was expected to helm the film adaptation of Revolution 2020, that deal fell through and a new film is now being developed from scratch with a new team.

Will he return as a judge in the next season of the dance reality TV show Nach Baliye? “No, it was a one-off turn. I want to experience different things in life because it makes me write better stories,” he points out, saying he's always been curious about the contestants, their backgrounds and dreams.

“Nach Baliye was a classic example of understanding the aspirations of young India. What I've learnt on the show was great research for an upcoming novel too.”