Several films have been made on his books but with Half Girlfriend, he has also donned the producer’s hat. Chetan Bhagat opens up to Koimoi in an exclusive interview on his inspiration behind the book, how the Indian society judges those who can’t speak English properly, how he remains unaffected by trolls and more…
With so many films made on your books, how does it feel?
It feels amazing! I feel very lucky as very few authors in this world have got this opportunity.
You’ve turned producer with Half Girlfriend, are you nervous?
I am nervous. I am nervous nervous nervous and a half. It is natural I think even if I was not the producer because there is going to be a judgment on the film which is based on my story. Being a producer, this time I am far more involved and have seen the effort every day which people have made in making this film. I really want it to do well. I think we have made a good film and it should do well. I am also excited. I am enjoying the journey and this is the last leg. The flight is about to land, I have fastened my seat belt but I am also enjoying the view!
Do Shraddha and Arjun match your imagination of Riya Somani and Madhav Jha?
Yes, I think both of them are quite well cast and when you see them in the film, you will forget that they are Arjun and Shraddha Kapoor. I want people to remember Riya and Madhav just like they remember Rancho.
Arjun Kapoor has also worked in 2 States, which again is based on your book. Is he your favourite actor?
It may seem like that (laughs). He is not a favourite but he seems to come together with me and I think he did really well in both the films. He is very passionate about my stories and puts in a lot of hard work to fit in the character.
This is your debut as a producer. Do you want to produce more films?
It’s my first, definitely not the last. I have made a logo and everything. So, better use it in other films. I do want to produce more but you take one film at a time. It’s not like I am trying to set up a big production house. I want to be able to tell stories and facilitate the process of storytelling. Being a producer allows me to be involved in every aspect of the film. I think I am more of a creative producer.
Do you intend to produce films only based on your books?
That’s not necessary. In the beginning, it is easier to produce films on your books but later on you get enough credibility one day that your name is enough and then you can take someone else’s story also.
What was your inspiration behind the book?
I have visited Bihar several times for talks and I saw many boys. It is not based on someone specific but people who I know, who are under-confident of their English but are very bright, very smart and how society judges them.
Do you think English is a parameter for judging people in our society?
I think so. I think people use it as a class differentiator and people take you more seriously if you speak English. If you don’t speak English well, people don’t take you as seriously or don’t give you the same job and they laugh at you sometimes.
Do you think this film will help change this perception?
I hope so. That’s the intention. That’s one of the reasons why it is has been made. We want to show the reality of India, that people like Madhav Jha exist and they are nice and there is no reason to make fun of them.
What is your next book?
I don’t know yet. I really don’t. I will decide after Half Girlfriend.
Would you like to say something on the plagiarism charges against you by author Anvita Bajpai?
She has filed it legally and I have to respond to it legally. The court has not heard me yet. I can never think of doing anything like this, I never had to do anything like this. Taking something from a published work would be not only immoral but also quite stupid. On the internet, I get trolled anyway so much. If I had taken something from somewhere, till now 50 screenshots would have come. I have not done anything but the court has to hear me and we have to go through the proper process.
Talking about trolls, how does it affect you?
Not so much now. Every media person I meet, I tell them that you need to stop giving trolls importance. If some people are screaming on the roads, you will not start reporting it right? It’s the same on the internet. People are screaming because they can. Mostly you have to ignore those nasty comments. People do so much of hard work over the years…very easy na? You are making a Taj Mahal for 20 years and someone will say why did you make it white? Why is it not pink? We must learn that this is just junk on the internet.