Q & A
What is ‘Revolution 2020’ about?
Revolution 2020 is about Gopal, Raghav and Aarti, who struggle to find love and success in Varanasi.
The tagline says ‘Love. Corruption. Ambition.’ What is going on?
The tagline refers to the key themes of the book. Revolution 2020 is foremost a love story, in fact a love triangle, as both Gopal and Raghav love the same girl. Corruption, particularly in the education sector, is the backdrop of the story. All three characters have strong ambitions, and how they go about achieving them also forms a big part of the story.
What made you write this book, after your last book “2 States: The Story of my marriage”?
2 States was a fun story inspired from my own life. I wanted to take a lighter look at inter-cultural marriages. I had fun doing it, and people had fun reading it, as it became my highest selling book.
Revolution 2020 comes from my travels across India in the past two years. As a motivational speaker, I have visited more than 50 cities in the heartland of India. The youth in these smaller cities, their dreams and aspirations inspired me to do a story on them.
I also saw disturbing levels of corruption in the education sector, which can have profound effects on the quality of education we are giving to our new generation, and wanted to bring that to people’s attention.
Sounds heavy. Is it?
Not at all. It is a Chetan Bhagat book. I think by now my readers know, that no matter how serious the issue is, I make my stories light and entertaining. The issues with the education system and the levels of corruption in the country are obviously grave concerns, but as a storyteller I have to balance it with the need to make a gripping, entertaining story.
So, along with the messages, there’s romance and a lot of drama this time.
Well, for the first time, I have dealt with a love-triangle, as in the previous four books, the boy and girl are pretty secure about their love for each other. This time, it is not the case. I don’t want to reveal more. The drama is in the book.
I wanted to pick a city from the Indian heartland, especially a place with a lot of character.
Something about Varanasi connected with me, every time I went there. I felt compelled to write about it. After all, Varanasi is a place where people go to cleanse their sins. Has anyone ever thought about the people who live there, and deal with all the sins people have left behind?
What is the message?
There are several messages in Revolution 2020, and I want the reader to get them upon reading the book, rather than me spelling it out. However, I want to emphasize that when even the education system becomes corrupt, it can have far reaching negative consequences on society. I hope Revolution 2020 provokes some thought in that direction.
Are you nervous before the release given the extraordinary expectations?
To a certain extent, yes. Revolution 2020 comes after 2 States and 3 Idiots. Of course the expectations are sky high. However, I have early feedback from some test readers and they loved Revolution 2020. Many said it is the best book so far. Hence, I am not too worried now.
Also, I must add that I have reached a point in my writing that it is not about beating another book or achieving a certain amount of sales. I am lucky that I have a loyal reader base, and they trust me to do whatever story I want. Revolution 2020 means a lot to me. If the story touches people like I intended to, I have done well. I am confident Revolution 2020 will.
It has been two years since you quit your job. How has life changed after becoming a full time writer?
It has changed a lot. I no longer go to office, so that has given me a lot of freedom. At the same time, it also requires a lot of self-discipline to make sure I have a productive day. I do a variety of things, and I am always trying to balance my time.
I also want to ensure I have enough time for family. I am a house husband now and I wait for the kids to come back from school. It is a joy to see your kids grow up and I am one of the few lucky men who get to witness it.
How is the Bollywood journey been so far? Two of the books have been adapted into films. What is happening with the other two?
My Bollywood journey has been quite good, and fairly smooth especially when I see people struggle for years to get a break. All the books have attracted interest from filmmakers. Two have released, with one of them being a monster success. Two others are in planning stages.
There have been a few bumps along the road as well, and perhaps because I am not well versed with the ways of Bollywood. Still, the car is very much on the road, and I hope my stories contribute more to Indian cinema in times to come.
You have also become a motivational speaker in the past two years, and also an active columnist. How different are these roles as compared to being a fiction writer?
Columns and motivation talks are technically non-fiction.
In columns I talk about current issues, and reach a wide audience because both the Times of India and Dainik Bhaskar have a massive readership. Many doubted my ability to do columns as they saw me as a novelist.
However, many people do not know that in my banking job, I have advised the Thailand and Philippines government on their financial policy and credit ratings. That experience helped me learn how to evaluate economies and national policies, that I sometimes use in my column writing.
How did the motivational talks come about?
The motivational talks, I admit, happened by accident. I gave a speech titled ‘Sparks’ at Symbiosis College, and the text of it became viral. Soon, I started getting invitations and hence the new avatar came about. I still consider myself different from other motivation speakers. I keep my talks light, personal and honest. I do not consciously try and motivate people, but many have said they feel inspired when they hear me talk live. I am thankful for the gift God has given me, for there are few things in life as wonderful as touching people in a positive manner.
What is your next project?
I can’t think about the next project, having just completed a book. I think I will take a break, and not write for a while. Perhaps I will consolidate all the various activities I do, and cut out some stuff as I need more spare time in my life to think. I am sure I will be writing soon again.
Any message for your readers? Advice?
Not much. I want to thank them for their love and support all these years. As advice, all I would say is that the world might underestimate you, but do not underestimate yourself. With hard work, a strong will, a humble attitude and a willingness to learn new things – one can achieve a lot in life. If you can develop these qualities, you will be ok in life.