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21 February 2024

Chetan Bhagat Kick’s it with Salman Khan, asks Kamal Haasan critics to quit India

Indian Author Chetan Bhagat speaks during Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) in Jaipur on January 21, 2012. (AFP)

By Bindu Suresh Rai

Chetan Bhagat is not one to shy away from controversy.

He dared to rock the Bollywood elitist club when he felt cheated of his dues, when the makers of ‘3 Idiots’ failed to give him credit for basing Indian cinema’s most successful film on his bestseller, ‘Five Point Someone’.

When the heinous Delhi rape case in December reared the ugly debate of women’s role in the fabric of elitist India, Bhagat put paper to pen in a column that faced backlash from all wings in the political arena.

And if this bubbling cauldron wasn’t enough in a day’s work, when actor Kamal Hassan threatened to leave India post the lynch mob mentality that saw ‘Vishwaroopam’ banned in several states in the country, the writer didn’t hesitate in taking to Twitter to say: “Mr Hassan doesn’t need to move out of Tamil Nadu or India. It is the ban seekers who need to move...”

However, quiz him over the stormy winds that blow in his direction and the award-winning writer only laughs.

Speaking to Emirates 24|7 from Mumbai, Bhagat said: “I think hypocrisy is such a wasted emotion; why not just speak your mind?”

But speaking your mind can have grave consequences, such as tweets like the one on ‘Vishwaroopam’s’ ban, which brought down the wrath of many politicos who objected to his statement: “Freedom of art is a reflection of our democracy. Those who want to take it away are anti-democracy, anti-freedom and frankly, anti-India.”

Amidst his voice for middle-class India through the pages of his various novels, Bhagat these days is busy promoting the upcoming ‘Kai Po Che’, which is based on his bestseller, ‘The 3 Mistakes of My Life’.

“I have been quite involved with the creative process in this film, down to co-writing the screenplay,” he revealed, a part of which is probably reminiscent of having his fingers burned when filmmakers Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Raju Hirani tussled with him in the press during the lead up to ‘3 Idiots’.

He added: “It has been quite a difficult process for me; I worked over two years on the screenplay with a lot of real life events occurring simultaneously that had to be repackaged in a two-hour format. But ultimately, despite some creative changes, this a faithful adaptation of the book.”

The book, which was penned seven years ago, chronicles the passage of three cricket-obsessed friends from Gujarat, with hopes and dreams of a young India. However, the politically underbelly simmers in the backdrop, which ultimately rears its ugly head with the 9/11 attacks and the lead up to the Godhra riots.

While the book received mixed reviews from critics, the trailer of the UTV Motion Pictures produced ‘Kai Po Che’ have been fairly favourable, with this project being the writer’s third film adaptation after ‘Hello’ and ‘3 Idiots’.

Meanwhile, the film adaptation of ‘2 States’ waits in the wings, with Alia Bhatt and Arjun Kapoor having been signed on for that project.

Quiz the writer if subconsciously his writing is now reflective of what Bollywood so desires and he denies such is the case.

“I hope not. Bollywood is such a seductive and glamorous industry that it can lure and weaken the mightiest. But I am not just an author, but a political columnist too and I believe I can able juggle all my careers effectively,” he explains.

However, Bhagat is currently seduced by this lure as he readies to pen his very first solo Bollywood screenplay for none other than superstar Salman Khan and his upcoming Telugu remake, ‘Kick’.

“You just can’t say no to Salman Khan,” he laughs. “The man has been such a support and influence on me that when he asked, I had to comply.”


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