Vantage point

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Chetan Bhagat - the voice of India and the champion of the masses

What is it with Chetan Bhagat's desire to act like a selfless martyr who is monly speaking up for greater causes or entities? When the whole #chetanblocks thing happened, basically a minor joke blown out of proportion, Bhagat tweeted that it was an insult to the nation and his commitment to the nation was being questioned, or something like that. Now he is making noises about not getting the credit for 3 Idiots, and is claiming it is all for the sake of the "millions of readers of Five Point Someone". He has even copy-pasted emails from readers! And he talks about how his mother cried because he wasn't credited. If this got any more kitschy, it could be Bhagat's next book!

In the other corner, Vidhu Vinod Chopra yelled at journalists, Raju Hirani spoke passionately about how most of the movie is original, and Aamir Khan made Aamir-Khan-like passive aggressive, yet pompous statements here.

I have read the book. I did not like it too much. I saw the movie. I wasn't wowed by it either. From where I stand, both sides are somewhat in the wrong.

Apparently the filmmakers said that only 2-5% of the movie is based on the book. That is not true. Most of the on-campus happenings follow the book. And in some detail too. There are elements that Hirani has added, sure, but most of it is undoubtedly FPS.

At the same time, 3I is NOT exactly an adaptation of FPS. What happens on campus is just part of the story. The non-flashback parts are original, and to me personally, were more interesting than the on-campus parts. I kept waiting for the campus flashbacks to end, as I sat through the movie. Even in the on-campus parts, there are major differences. Bhagat says Rancho is Ryan. Well, not exactly. Rancho is not a 5-pointer, but a genius who tops the class throughout.

And Bhagat says the "message" from 3I is the same as the "message" from FPS. Please! The only "message" I saw in FPS was that, if you can write grammatically correct english and can write a cheesy shallow story, there is a huge market out there composed of people who never read real books, but need some non-sleazy dumb book to mention when asked "which is your favorite book?". 3 Idiots on the other hand, did have a message. All Raju Hirani films do. The film's message was a little too sappy and simplistic for my tastes, but is way more message-like than anything FPS says.

Anyway all this talk of whether 5%, 10%, or 80% of the movie is from the book is irrelevant. Let's leave that to Bhagat, Chopra, Aamir etc. to duke it out in the media. The fact of the matter is, Bhagat is complaining that he did not get a proper story credit, but was mentioned only in the credits in the end. The fact of the matter also is, Chetan Bhagat is an MBA from India's top school, and worked many years as an investment banker. And no matter what the other failings of i-bankers are, they are expected to understand contracts. To read and interpret contracts. And to realize, that if you are not happy with something in the contract, you don't sign it.

And the contract, which Chopra has put up on his website, clearly states that Bhagat will be mentioned in the "rolling credits", which appear at the end of the movie. And he has been credited there. Bhagat knows he is on flimsy grounds legally, because he signed away movie rights to a bestseller for just 1 lakhs (plus 10 lakhs discretionary which he has got). He probably regrets settling for less. But he can not do anything legally. Which is why all this talk of mothers crying, and fans emailing, and all that.

Or maybe he genuinely believes his own hype. He genuinely believes he is taking up the cause of the millions who read FPS. And maybe he did genuinely think that those who made fun of him on twitter were making anti-India statements.

Whatever. It is fun reading Bhagat's self-important blogs. Even more fun than listening to Aamir's self-important views on everything.