Now to his horror Chetan Bhagat finds his name missing from the opening credits of 3 Idiots. Not only that, both producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Aamir Khan have gone on record to accuse the bestselling author of trying to gain publicity from the film. Hurt and amused Chetan reacts.
You must be very upset by the latest proceedings?
You"re a writer. You should know how it feels to have credit taken away from you. And it"s not something only I"m saying. It"s out there. The book is there. The film is there. They"ve tried to take away from my contribution. My name is at the very end of the credit titles after the junior artistes and still photographers. From the time they started making the film they"ve been stressing that their product is different. It"s like a systematic effort (to underplay my contribution). If you read the book and saw the film you"ll see the similarities.
So would you say 3 Idiots is an adaptation of your novel?
3 Idiots is a total adaptation of my book. Some things are direct lifts, others indirect adaptations.
Aamir thinks you are trying to take away credit from the film"s writer Abhijat Joshi?I heard his comments. But then he says he hasn"t read the book. There"s no denying Abhijat has done the screenplay. What Abhijat has done with my book can only be known if you"ve read it. If Aamir is so concerned about Abhijat not getting the publicity he should let Abhijat talk. I very much respect Aamir. He"s the reason I thought the project would have a lot of integrity. I know for a fact he was told not to read my book because they told him it"d affect his understanding of the story. I was told it was a different script.
How would Aamir"s perception have been affected if he read the book?
I don"t know. I"m on a firm footing with the facts. See the film, read the book. And judge for yourself. The whole plot structure, narrative, even dialogues about matar-paneer and Maruti 800 cars are from my novel. The novel was set in the 1990s. Aaj Maruti 800 kaun bolega? I mention 42 exams and 16 broken bones in my book. They have kept the same numbers in the film. Kareena"s brother committing suicide on the railway tracks…so many other things in the film, which are all there in my novel.
Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Aamir have accused you of trying to make mileage out of their movie?
If I didn"t take up the issue properly I wouldn"t have been able to live with myself. If someone else goes and collects the award for best story at the awards functions how will I feel? Only once I met Aamir which was when I landed at Bangalore where they were shooting 3 Idiots and I was told, 'Don"t come we"ve too many visitors".They prevented me from going on the set. The book has been selling for six years. There"re lakhs of fans of the book. It"s not about Chetan being naraaz and Aamir being naraaz. My issue is not with Aamir. When the other film Hello based on my novel One Night At The Call Centre came did I say one word against the characterizations or treatment? I was credited properly for that but I haven"t been credited for 3 Idiots.
Have you become embittered towards Bollywood?
You could make up any kind of contract. But is there any contract that stops people from being petty? My last novel The 3 Mistakes Of My Life is being directed by Abhishek Kapoor and I am co-scripting it. There"s a lot of interest in adapting my latest novel 2 States: The Story Of My Marriage. I don"t think there would be any problem with future project. With 3 Idiots I know I"m in the right. I"m just telling people to see the film and read my book. I know Aamir is a very powerful person. But finally the truth has to prevail, no? I"m no great artiste. But there has to be fair play. I"m being accused of trying to get mileage.10 lakh copies of the book have been sold. The book has been read by 1 crore readers. Wouldn"t they know the truth?
What do you intend to do?
The makers of 3 Idiots are busy with their victory tours all over the country. They"re naturally being asked about the similarities between my book and the film. Sorry I spoilt their celebrations. The truth had to be told. I"ve been told by them, 'You"re just a writer. You don"t realize how big we are." Maybe I don"t realize how big they are. Main kya karoon? But the truth is above everything. Aisa nahin ke pura Bollywood kharaab hai.
Do you think you"ll be ostracized by Bollywood after this incident?
I"m not dependent on Bollywood for my livelihood. I"m a big Krishna bhakt. I"ll follow the right path. If I"m wrong I"ll leave writing and join ISKCON. A writer just wants that his words should make a change in the society. Maybe by taking up this issue I hope to bring about a change in the way writers are treated. Vidhu Vinod Chopra assured me he would treat me like a king. Kahan ka raja?
What do you hope to achieve?
When they go to pick up the story award I want people to know whose story it is. When they make eye contact with their children they should know they"re lying. We"ve to show that truth comes before everything else. I don"t write for money or glamour. I just need paper and pen. Lord Krishna takes care of the rest.