Affable, intuitive and vocal — author Chetan Bhagat believes in evolving, opinionating and writing as he observes, and has made peace with the brickbats that could come with it. His latest lockdown release, One Arranged Murder, has amassed mammoth intrigue quite like his other reads. And, well, there’s a lot on his plate. But, at 46, he’s happiest about not giving a damn… We caught up with the prolific writer to talk about his new book, his mantra of dealing with criticism, trolls, and more. Excerpts from the interview.
One Arranged Murder is a little different your previous books. Take us through how the idea came along...
I started out with stories about love and friendship. As an author I wanted to evolve and also give my readers new surprises each time. Hence, I moved to murder mysteries, while retaining the elements of love and friendship that I have always had. The specific idea of a murder on Karva Chauth came from a news item. Something like this actually happened in Gurgaon.
Is there a bit of Keshav or Saurabh [characters from the book] in you? Do you really believe all’s fair in love?
Yes, I think so. I am very rational and focused like Keshav. I love food like Saurabh. Well, everything may not be fair in love, but love can justify or at least explain lot of stupid behavior sometimes.
Does the pressure of delivering great reads ever get to you?
A little bit yes. But, now I don’t get so affected by it to weigh me down. I am at a stage where I only do a story if it excites me, and normally what excites me works for my readers as well.
You’ve been vocal on politics, bullying, and everything in between. Are you okay with being controversy’s favourite child?
For the last 14 years I have been writing newspaper columns, and they have to be on a different topics. My job is to give opinions, and many people like reading them. Not everyone would agree with them and sometimes people get upset. The intention is to not create a controversy, but if it happens, it’s a part of the job.
How affected are you by criticism?
I used to get affected a lot at 30, when my first book came out. Now at 46, it doesn’t matter and I think I have proved myself. Being older has some advantages. One of them is you stop giving a damn.
Most of your videos/motivational tips are for youngsters. Is there a tip you wish you knew when you were younger?
Oh, there is so much I wish I knew when I was younger. Most of all, self-affirmation and a belief in myself would have helped a lot. That’s what I try to do now.
What are some of the crassest comments you’ve come across on social media?
Why give importance to filth? If we keep giving them importance and platforms, aren’t we encouraging crassness?
In one of your recent interviews, you mentioned how Indian liberals failed “to express themselves in a way India understands”. Where do you think they are going wrong?
They are more interested in impressing people like themselves than in expressing themselves to people across India.
Are you a hopeless romantic?
I guess I am. I am a positive person and love the idea of love more than love I guess.
Three things about Chetan Bhagat his fans should know?
He works hard...
He has down days...
He has fans and haters...
Is there something you want to do, but have put off?
Yes, to direct a movie. I might, soon. Stay tuned.