Monday, November 30, 2009

2 States : Pedestrian Writing at it's Best from the Best-Selling Indian Author of All Times (Apparently)

I’m a big fan of language that’s simple and flows but the stories that Chetan Bhagat tells aren’t out of this world, and even a high-school kid can write the way he does.

He started out well with Five Point Someone (I genuinely enjoyed the book), then he lost the plot completely with One Night @ the Call Center. His latest offering - 2 States - is his attempt at redemption but the end product is a confluence of his two earlier books – ‘A’ Class b-school (IIMA) setting, followed by the unnecessary (and irrelevant) introduction of a spiritual Guru into the story.

2 States is the story of Chetan Bhagat’s courtship & marriage – how he, a Punjabi, and his girlfriend, a Tamilian Brahmin convinced their parents to let them marry each other. He plays on all the stereotypes of the Punjabi & Tamilian communities that exist, exaggerating them to the nth power. Punjabis love food, love all material things, are lured by money, huge houses & glitzy cars, are loud & over-the-top in everything they do, and are extremely racist, hung up on fair skin & hate South Indians. Tamilians on the other hand are quiet, not very gregarious people, have an understated lifestyle, eat on banana leaves & hate North Indians! The book is mainly about these stereotypes – which he has used to bring in the humor element – and not so much about the love story between the protagonists Krish & Ananya. The romance between them hardly exists!

The book reads like a script for a Bollywood potboiler that’s just waiting to be made into a movie! And I’m not surprised given that I recently read an interview with Chetan Bhagat where he says he’s gradually moving towards script-writing since that’s where the demand (read $$$$) is. So Mr Bhagat, why waste time writing books and waste Rs 95 of our hard-earned money? You might as well write scripts directly, and that way we will save our money because no one will waste money watching your movie! Remember ‘Hello’? Did anyone watch it apart from you, your wife & your twin boys?

Anyway, moving on….the first part of 2 States where Krish tries to win over Ananya’s parents is long drawn out, and the latter part (where Ananya tries to convince Krish’s parents) gets over in a jiffy!

In spite of all cultural differences there are no fights between the couple, only minor arguments. Common sense says that when you’re trying to straddle wide cultural chasms – along with the added pressure of having to convince two sets of non-cooperative parents – fights are bound to happen between the couple. Or when the wedding preparations are being done where the boy and girl belong to two different cultures - there are fights between the families (and consequentially between the couple) on issues such as the style of wedding, the rituals to be followed etc. But Mr Bhagat is in a hurry to finish his book and has no time to dwell on these.

The book is also very sexist. Just to convince his mother – who is way too hung up on the “hum ladke wale hain (we are the boy’s side)” bit – Krish asks Ananya & her family to be almost servile towards his family – buy expensive gifts for every member of the boy’s side, ask your parents to always talk to them with folded hands, pander to every demand of theirs etc. Ananya’s family obliges without a word. He also tells his mother that once the wedding is over he’ll show Ananya her place in the family - that of a daughter-in-law who dare not argue with her mother-in-law - and make her toe the line!! As a female reader, I take offense to such sexist attitude.

Chetan Bhagat has shown Punjabis as extremely avaricious, petty and racist – definitely immensely exaggerated. Ananya is shown to be an independent career woman and quite sexually liberated but she still panders to the demands of the boy’s side without a word of protest.

Overall, the book is good for a light read. It has plenty of humor though at the expense of certain communities. But otherwise it’s quite pedestrian.

6 comments:

The knife said...

well it's worked for him Scarlett. A couple of collaugues were referring to the book as a 'nice, light read'. I liked 5 point but didn't read anything else. For a contrast see if you can get hold of a book called 'Snapshots from Hell'. Read it during my MBA. It's about an English student who doies his MBA at Stanford. Rivetting

Scarlett said...

@The Knife - Will try getting the book.

On Chetan Bhagat, I know his style of writing has worked for him. I think he's just been declared the Best Selling Indian Author of all times! 2 States is a 'nice, light read' but very ordinary.

Moonshine said...

I didnt like 5 point too much.. it was ok types.. and one night at a call center was weird to say the least!! I picked up 2 states (you know why :)).. but somebody has taken my book!!!

Scarlett said...

@Moonshine - Who took your book?? The girl's like you & the guy like your husband. I pictured the two of you throughout the book :)

Urvazeee said...

5 Point Someone was not the best, but its a good Indian read...written in a language Hindians can understand...after that..there were disasters in One Night and 3 mistakes..He is back to track with 2 States..
I think he likes numbers..5 Point, 3 Mistakes, 1 Night, 2 States...
Anyways..Scarlett yu are rite when yu say..he wraps up easily..making it absurd sometimes..he delves into the topic and comes out without even touching it nicely...
Nevertheless i liked readin 2 States..as i could relate to it, as he says...Love alwayz takes a backseat when there are families involved...when couples try to fit in each other's families.

I liked yur article...it helped to cross question his writings.

Omanicious said...

Hi Scarlett, new to your blog and find it interesting. A quick comment on this posting though. I am a tam bram marrried to a Punjabi, and believe it or not can relate to most of the stuff written in the book. I dont mind if the writing is too simple, as long as it makes a good read....