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Very few authors have managed to reach out to such a wide audience as Chetan Bhagat. The writer of international bestsellers like Five Point Someone, One Night @ Call Centre, 3 Mistakes of My Life and 2 States have been widely read and now he is all set to see yet another of his book being made into a film. Chetan Bhagat speaks to us and talks about why 3 Idiots is a special film, his next big project and lots more.
After One Night @ the Call Centre, yet another book of yours Five Point Someone is all set to be seen in its celluloid version (3 Idiots). How does it feel?
It feels great. This time it's a far bigger film, the buzz about 3 Idiots is enormous. We have done the right thing by putting the film ahead of us. It's an incredible feeling to be able to reach out to so many people through the medium of cinema.
The screenplay has been written by Ra Kumar Hirani and Abhijat Joshi...Would you have liked to be a part of the screenplay writing process?
Initially I did sit down with Raju and Abhijat while they were deciding to make a film based on '5 Point Someone'. I even went to IIT with Abhijat a couple of times. But it was just not possible for me to be involved at every stage of the screenplay writing process since I was in Hong Kong at that time, working full time and busy writing other books. Moreover, Abhijat is based in USA, Raju was in the US for quite a while working on the screenplay but it was not practical for me to do that.
The question on everyone's mind is how similar the film is to the book? Raju Hirani says that the film is just 10% of the book....your comments.
I don't think Raju must have said something like that. In fact I just met him a few days ago and we spoke at length about the film etc. See...Five Point Someone has over the years achieved cult status and has its own loyal fans. I am sure they would like to see each and every moment of the book on the big screen but that is not how the process works. Adapting a book and making it into a film is a relatively new thing in India. The film retains the soul of the book. 3 Idiots is different from the book but at the same time it does borrow many things from the book. The core theme and message of the film is coming from the book itself. And that's why the makers have officially credited the film as 'Based on a novel by Chetan Bhagat'
You are but obviously not directly involved with the film and its promotional strategies...does it upset you?
Not at all...at the end of the day I want the film to be a good film and I am happy that a film whose base is generated from my book has generated so much response and is the talk of the town.
Aamir recently was on an innovative promotional spree travelling the length and breadth of the country...what do you think about this marketing strategy?
When you have Aamir Khan, I don't think anybody else needs to be involved in marketing of the film. Aamir is known for his innovative style of marketing. He will never directly say, 'Please come and watch my film' but he will do something that will grab your attention and make you go and watch the film. I am really inspired by his marketing. In fact there is a lesson for a lot of Indian marketing companies on the way Aamir does the marketing of his films.
Moving on from 3 Idiots, how is work coming along on the film based on your book 3 Mistakes of My Life being made by Excel Entertainment?
Abhishek Kapoor (the director) is very conscious of the comparisons that will come between the book and the film and hence we (Abhijit, Pubali Chaudhari and I) are taking great care in writing the screenplay of the film. In fact even today as we speak, I am working on the screenplay of the film based on 3 Mistakes Of My life. We are aware that after Rock On and 3 Idiots, there will be a lot of expectations from people and hence we are working very hard on getting the screenplay right. I think we should be able to finalise it soon and begin casting in a month or so.
Your most recent novel 2 States was launched a couple of months ago...how has been the response so far?
2 States has had a fantastic response... easily the best of all the 4 books, that's because it's a very universal love story with a good dose of humour. It's a very good book for a lot of people to relate and enjoy. It also carries a nice message. Especially in the South, the book has done extraordinarily well. I think I have been able to meet my fans expectations which is the ultimate dream for any writer.
That book would make for an interesting Bollywood potboiler...any plans to adapt that book into a film too?
There have been many offers but I know that my fans would like me to be involved with only A-grade Bollywood. I don't want to sell the rights to any filmmaker just for the heck of it. It should go into the right hands so that it emerges as one of the best films of the year
What else are you busy with these days apart from tweeting....the buzz is that you are scripting a film?
Twitter is a great way to stay connected with my fans. Yes...I do want to script a romantic comedy. Abhishek Kapoor has taught me a lot about screenplay writing. The best part about working with Abhishek is that he has shown me how the screenplay language works and also how to use restraint. Rock On was such a film that expressed so much more in spite of being subtle. My books tend to be quite filmy sometimes (laughs). It's ironical that a filmmaker is telling me to be less filmy but I am forever indebted to Abhishek for teaching me these things about screenplay writing. Now I am hoping that I can do a better job.