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'Today's generation is a hungry generation'

May 15, 2008
Literary critics of India, Chetan Bhagat has read your scathing reviews and heard your biting comments.

Thing is, the best-selling author of Five Point Someone and One Night@The Call Centre doesn't put much stock in them. He'd rather address the concerns and answer the questions raised in the 20,000 some pieces of fan mail he's received since 2004. Still, given the opportunity to speak on his detractors, he doesn't pull any punches.

"Frankly, the critics are out of touch," he says with a wave of dismissal. "This kind of intellectual arrogance is a big shame, because this country gives them so much. Then, suddenly, they feel they are in this ivory tower. I think it's sick."

But he's careful to point out he holds no spite or contempt for these unnamed opponents. Put simply, he's just not losing sleep over a few lost stars in a magazine.

"The critical reviews are not there? Ok, fine. Why should I give them so much of my time, when there are millions of people who love me? Why not I try to make the people who love me happier, rather than the people who don't love me, and try to win them over? (My fans) are important to me because they made me. Today, you're sitting here because of my fans, only. They are everything to me. They are my muscles."

It's precisely this attitude that has propelled Bhagat to the front of India's bookshelves and the top of India's bestsellers lists, bewildering and confounding India's social elite along the way. Unlike vanguards Vikram Seth and Amitav Ghosh, Bhagat's not an author by trade.

Instead, as a self-admitted middle-class Delhi boy, and an IIT Delhi (1995) and IIM Ahmedabad (1997) graduate, he's more investment banker (with Goldman Sachs in Hong Kong since 1999) than novel-writing, literary heavyweight. "I'm not a very complex novelist; my English is very basic, but very articulate," he says matter-of-factly. "I don't think spending ten pages describing how a Bengali woman puts on her sari is character development."

He claims to have had a lifelong interest in writing, but more as a means for telling stories, which has always been a talent. At parties, he says jokingly, he noticed how the wives of other men would gather around him to listen, though he's "not very good looking" and doesn't have a "six pack."

"Stories just come to me," he admits. "To put it in geek terms: all my novels have been directly downloaded into my head, and I just write it. I don't control my talent. I'm writing for passion, not for ego. I still have my job; it's not for money." And the comparisons to other big-named authors of Indian origin, like Salman Rushdie? "It's not even fair," Chetan moans. "He's been doing it for 30, 40 years; I've been doing it part-time, for three years. It's comparing major pro league with the college league."

Text: Matthew Schneeberger | Photographs and video: Hitesh Harisinghani

Also read: Shobhaa De: Complete coverage!

Buy Chetan Bhagat's latest book, The 3 Mistakes of my Life on


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