Q & A
What is your book ‘Half-Girlfriend’ about?
Half-Girlfriend is about a boy from Bihar who doesn’t speak English well and falls in love with a rich girl from Delhi. What happens when two people from different classes fall in love is what the book is about.
And frankly, what is a ‘Half-Girlfriend’ anyway?
Half-Girlfriend, to me, is a unique Indian phenomenon, where boys and girls are not clear about their relationship status with each other.
A boy may think he is more than friends with the girl, but the girl is still not his girlfriend. Hence, I thought we needed a term like ‘Half-Girlfriend’. Because, in India, that is what most men get.
Tell us a bit more about the story.
The story is about Madhav and Riya, who meet in St. Stephen’s college in Delhi. Madhav is from a small town, almost rural area in Bihar. He joins St. Stephen’s and falls in love with Riya. I really don’t want to say more as it will take away something from the reading experience. All I can say is there are lots of twists and turns in Madhav and Riya’s story.
Kai Po Che, 2 States, Kick. After your last fiction book Revolution 2020 (and non-fiction What Young India Wants), you have had three film releases. What’s going on there? Are you too Bollywood now?
I have been lucky that my books have been taken up for filming, and four of them have been made and released as well. Kai Po Che (based on 3 Mistakes of My Life) and 2 States were adaptations of my own books. Through that, I had the opportunity to write the screenplay for Kick, a big-budget Salman Khan project. I thought it would be a unique challenge and so I did it. Three films in the past one-and-a-half year sounds like a lot, but I still don’t see myself as a Bollywood person.
So books are still important?
Extremely so. I am really excited about Half-Girlfriend. It was a tough book to write, given my limited initial understanding of the rural areas of India. However, I am quite happy with the final draft. We have had test readers read the book and they have loved it, calling it one of my best works. I am primarily an author of books and shall remain so. At the same time, I enjoy doing some of the other work I do.
What is the non-book work you do now?
There are quite a few things. I am a motivational speaker, something I took on as a hobby but has grown to me having given close to three hundred talks at corporate offices and colleges. I have a popular column in the Times of India and Dainik Bhaskar, which I enjoy writing very much. I do some screenplay work like Kick. I also do some TV shows from time to time.
Why all this other work?
I write for change. In order to change, I want to first reach as many Indians as possible through entertainment and then influence them with my non-fiction writings and views. For this, I want to be flexible with the medium, be it books, TV, films, stage or the Internet. I do not see myself as an author alone, and my job is to reach and communicate with as many people as possible, using any available means. To me, everything I do fits in that underlying goal.
Are you nervous before the release given the extraordinary expectations?
Any release makes me nervous. With each release, you risk the reputation you have earned though past successes. Plus it also scares me a little that millions of people will read what I wrote, and I have to meet their ever-rising expectations.
However, I also don’t want to be so scared that I don’t release books or films. The release date, or judgment day, is a reality of my work and I just have to deal with it.
What is the overall message from Half-Girlfriend?
Half-Girlfriend is an out-and-out love story so it is not a morality tale with a big message as such. It is also a story about a person who doesn’t speak good English and how he copes in India. It also talks about the state of primary rural education in the country.
Hopefully, the book will make people believe in love again and also make them more sensitive and less judgmental towards people who may not have the best language skills.
What is your next project?
To take a break! 2014 has been hectic, with 2 States, Kick and now Half-Girlfriend. It is more releases than one can handle in a year. Besides, it was also an election year, so the column writing became intense in the earlier part of the year.
Any message for your readers?
I love you. Really, I mean it from my heart. Your support has taken me to new heights and made all my dreams come true. I think it is about time I help make your dreams come true. That is why, I try to write inspiring stories that will motivate you and I also try to write on national issues so politicians will hear us and make life better for all of us.