India’s biggest-selling English-language novelist Chetan Bhagat talks to Nishad Padiyarath.

Speaking to the Times of Oman in an exclusive interview over phone, ahead of the launch of his new novel, which is scheduled to take place in Mumbai on Wednesday, Bhagat said he is looking for a fun-filled evening with his fans in Oman.

“This is for the first time I am coming to Oman. It will be a fun and motivational session. I assure you this will be an evening to remember,” said Bhagat.

The 39-year-old author who is known for giving motivational speeches across India and abroad, pointed out that the “young working-class” people do not recognise their own potential owing to their busy schedules.

Motivation issues
“I have seen a lot of people who are in their 30s and 40s who get used to a regular job and they fail to understand their full potential. They do not know how to motivate themselves to reach the next level,” he said but did not give details.

An investment banker turned writer, Bhagat is greatly considered to have brought readers back to books in India from metro cities to small towns.

Four of his books have been made into movies that were all blockbusters in Bollywood. However, Bhagat has no regrets about leaving his lucrative career at Goldman Sachs and instead choosing a notoriously unpredictable job as a full-time writer.

“When I wrote the first three books I was still working but the continued response to all my books and the rising fan base made me feel that I need to seriously look beyond my banking job so at one point the bank job seemed pointless,” he said.

Bhagat’s books are mainly related to the educated Indian middle-class; where he has seen success.

“I write about middle-class people because that is where I belong to and in a way it is easy for me to write books about them. I write in simple and straightforward English without complicating the language and that makes easy for people to read them and due to which I have often received criticisms from a few section of people that my works are not literature. But that’s part and parcel of any game,” said Bhagat who was named as the ‘100 most influential people in the world’ by Time magazine.

Target audience

According to Bhagat, he is targeting people in India who aren’t really readers. “A majority of the people in India are not used to reading English books. The biggest achievement for me as a writer is when I get calls from people who haven’t even read one book in their life.

“Some say they read only my books. But my aim is to make everyone in India read and that is going to be a big challenge. The younger generation is surrounded by the Internet and apps. But somehow, my books make them read that I think is my biggest success,” he noted. His new book titled Half Girlfriend is about a boy named Madhav who speaks poor English and falls in love with a girl Riya.

The book has already won rights to be made into a movie even before its release.

Story ideas

Bhagat, who also writes columns in leading Indian newspapers, has conducted more than 50 talk shows across the country.

When asked as to how he finds time to write books in every two years, the unassuming writer had this to say: “You know the new generation is changing with time and in a way it allows for very interesting stories. I travel a lot for doing talk shows and I observe a lot. That gives me many ideas which I think is good for a book. I don’t claim to be the best writer in India. I write stories that make people happy and so far it has been good for me.”

This interview was first published in the Times of Oman newspaper on September 30,2014

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