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One Indian Girl... not: Every Chetan Bhagat book has the same woman

Durga M Sengupta | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:47 IST

The problem with writing about Chetan Bhagat is that sinking feeling that the effort is probably in vain. After all, his books somehow become bestsellers and are made into super-hit films with Bollywood's biggest stars. It's like lamenting over Salman Khan - sure, it wont make a difference, but you need to get it out of your system.

Now, Mr Bhagat has struck again. And this time, he appropriates the Indian woman while calling his book 'feminist'.

In an interview to The Economic Times, Bhagat said, "Even women judge other women, even women become sexist. This is a book about feminism." Okay then.

Bhagat's latest novel, titled One Indian Girl, is written from a female perspective. And, for some perspective on how catastrophic this female perspective can be, you just need to read the synopsis. Or, better still, watch the teaser.

Also read - Half Girlfriend 'graduates' to One Indian Girl. Get ready for Chetan Bhagat's comeback

"Hi, I'm Radhika Mehta and I'm getting married this week. I work in a top investment bank. Thank you for reading my crazy story. However, let me warn you. You may not like me too much. One, I make a lot of money. Two, I have an opinion on everything. Three, I have had sex before. Now, if I were a guy, you'd be cool with all this. Since I am a girl, these things don't really make me too likeable, do they?"

Now, in case you haven't already gouged your eyes out, let's proceed.

Take a moment to allow yourself to consider the possibility that this is progressive. Once that moment passes, hate yourself for weakness and remind yourself that we're talking abut Chetan Bhagat.

Because, if one were to go by just about ANY of the women Chetan Bhagat has written into his books, this One Indian Girl called Radhika won't be good news.

It's smart of Bhagat to use this title though. Because tomorrow, if sane women of this country were to read and object to his book, he could always turn around and say, "Hey, I said One Indian Girl, not all you Indian girls."

Sure, Mr Bhagat, but at least we're women and know a thing or two about the struggles of being women, especially in India. What's your excuse?

Bhagat's wonderwomen

This is not to say that writers don't have the liberty to write what they please. But, going by Bhagat's track record, which paints men as sex-starved douchebags and women as thoroughly objectified, coveted trophies, Radhika's chances at some genuine female emancipation seem slim.

What makes his attempt to write as the female protagonist worse is how he desperately tries to make her the 'cool' girl. She's always the girl who is okay with sex, is unusually attractive, is seemingly ambitious, and has pretty much no flaw. She will settle for the less-intellectually inclined, awkward man and never, ever complain.

Bhagat's women find the ordinary man endearing. She's an angel, that perfect saviour with a sexy body who will emerge out of the shadows and sweep the man off his feet.

Bhagat's women are the perfect wet dream for his male readership. And they are completely unreal.

Bhagat's women are the perfect wet dream for his male readership. And they are completely unreal.

They harm the female agency more than they do good because these women have life sorted, brush off real troubles, and make space for their terribly oedipal boyfriends' terribly oedipal problems like they were waiting to take over from their mothers.

Also read -The anatomy of a liberal or the lobotomy of Chetan Bhagat?

To strengthen this argument, let's back up a little bit, and start at the very beginning with...

1. Five Point Someone: The first novel of Bhagat's that made him a household name. Sure the hormonally charged IIT boys and their bromance was the binding fabric of this novel. But, since homosexuality isn't an option, Bhagat gifted them feisty, 'chill' women who guided them towards success. Their personal success being entirely tertiary.

Neha Cherian, the professor's daughter, is the coveted trophy here. She has good looks, a great family, sorted priorities and a love for rebellion. And she settles for the narrator, Hari, the most uninteresting character in the book, so as to reinvent him.

2. One Night @ Call Centre: There are too many characters in this book that isn't sure if it's a sex-comedy or horror. Priyanka, Esha and Radhika are the three female 'love interests' for the men in the book. They drink a lot of LIIT, work odd hours, and, despite having a work schedule that should completely take up their entire life, find the time to fall in love with three complete - again, Painfully Ordinary colleagues.

3. 3 Mistakes of My Life: Again, Vidya here is (oh I'm so bored of repeating this) rebellious, sexually charged and super into her brother's Painfully Ordinary friend. Oh and this friend is her tuition teacher.

4. 2 States: IIM-A student Ananya is possibly one of Bhagat's most likeable female characters. This also makes her the most dangerous.

She's unbelievably self-aware to begin with. While the man here isn't very ambitious, she most certainly is. She learns from him, to excel in a class filled with IIT-grads and no eco majors.

Then, of course, love happens and her entire focus shifts to marriage, this despite landing a great job during placement and being the more ambitious character. Sigh.

Also read - Chetan Bhagat doesn't know what historians do. Can you help him?

Formula's child

If Bhagat's Radhika in One Indian Girl is anything like the aforementioned women, let me tell you what her story would be.

A) She'll be super hot and her hotness would be described in great detail. Since this is from her perspective, she'll probably stand naked in front of the mirror and dissect her body parts for the reader's benefit.

B) She'll meet Painfully Ordinary Man (POM) and turn him into her pet project. If he's a teetotaler, she'll coax him into drinking shots. If he's a Chetan Bhagat-ish book reader, she'll introduce him to Kafka. If he's a pervert, she'll tell him he's doing it wrong and give him the best sex of his life.

C) She will then inexplicably fall in love with POM and even be the first to confess it. Now that she's turned him into a rebel, she'll pull the ultimate rebellion card - marriage. Because ultimately that's what we all want.

D) There will be conflict. Either POM would be too scared or she'll have an authoritarian figure come in the way of this marriage. Or they'll be from completely different backgrounds. Or all of the above.

E) The conflict would be resolved in the MOST absurd way possible. With elaborate ring purchases, or a miracle baby, or an apocalypse. Who cares.

F) Strong, independent, 'chill' girl would marry POM and never be written about again.

If you apply this formula, you'd see that all of Chetan Bhagat's books have religiously followed it.

If you apply the above formula, you'd see that all of Chetan Bhagat's books have religiously followed it.

What does it show? Bhagat writes his women to tell Indian men, "Go on, she's totally within reach. She's mad talented and way out of your league, but you're a man. You'll win her over. And she'll fix you."

Ew, dear god, no.

P.S. The author hasn't read Revolution 2020 or Half Girlfriend and therefore wasn't authorised to comment on them. Guess she ran out of masochism.

First published: 23 August 2016, 2:09 IST
Durga M Sengupta @the_bongrel

Feminist and culturally displaced, Durga tries her best to live up to her overpowering name. She speaks four languages, by default, and has an unhealthy love for cheesy foods. Assistant Editor at Catch, Durga hopes to bring in a focus on gender politics and the role in plays in all our interactions.