“The name of the author overshadows everything else on the cover, even the book’s title, as if he’s announcing, “Isn’t my name enough to pick this up?”” writes Ajinkya Kale.
Amidst the #Metoo allegations by Ira Trivedi, who happens to be a helping hand in the author’s earlier, and a comparatively better book ‘One Indian Girl’, Chetan Bhagat has finally released ‘The Girl in room 105′, his much-awaited new title.
Although the launch’s timing may seem disastrous in the present light of hostilities, it is a clear tactical move. The author wants to stick to the proposed schedule in order to project his image of being clean and innocent. Delaying the launch would have only meant a clear confirmation of his guilt in the alleged charges. Mr. Bhagat doesn’t want to let the allegations perpetuate into his life and impact his literary career. In other words, he doesn’t want to give a damn to Ms. Trivedi and her allegations, though his twitter clarifications tell us another story.
Hence, instead of hiding away from the public malice, the author has decided to face it all with firmness and courage. He wants to stick to his stipulated plan, even if it means suffering a potential loss of sales, but necessary to avoid his image from being tarnished, if that hasn’t happened already.
The present circumstances would serve as a perfect (and justifiable) platform for CB-bashing, a sadistic cliche which has thrived for a long time in the literary circles. But contrary to an obvious presumption, I’ll rather try to be as unprejudiced, neutral, and objective as possible in order to analyse the given book critically, though I won’t be able to help but spill some vile here and there.
Obsession with IIT, continues
The Girl in Room 105 is yet another contrasting juxtaposition of the lovebirds. The male protagonist, named ‘Keshav Rajpurohit’ belongs to a conservative Rajasthani family (with his father working as an RSS pradhan sevak.) And then there’s ‘Zara Lone’, the female protagonist, who belongs to a liberal Kashmiri Muslim family. Keshav is an IITian (surprise!) but has no placement offered. In fact, IIT has been mentioned 97 times in the book. Zara is a Ph.D. student studying (guess where?) in the same IIT as Keshav’s. She is also inclined towards politics and activism.
Not only his obsession with IIT, but also IIM is clear. It seems as if the author has extracted some marketing deals from reputed brand names, as we come across names like OLX, Ola, MasterCard, Tinder, Parle-G, ABP, MakeMyTrip, Prega News, YouPorn like they incorporate inline ads in Youtube videos. I suspect this particular antic has also been been performed to better connect with the reader.
One cannot help but observe the cover of the book for a moment. Here, the name of the author overwhelms everything on the cover, even the book’s title, as if he’s announcing, “Isn’t my name enough to pick this up?” The same attitude reverberates even in the opening pages of the book. The author has yet again penned himself as the all-busy-all-important author, traveling around places and visiting literary fests, when a stranger suddenly stumbles upon him. What follows is an explosion of chatterings and hesitancy. But it is still surprising for me to see these stumbling strangers trusting Mr. Bhagat so blindly, revealing their most intimate moments and grave secrets. Well, I guess it’s not a bad idea to intrigue India’s ‘paperback king’ and get the attention from the whole subcontinent.
Despite being projected as ‘an unlove story’, there is a significant amount of romance happening in these 285 pages. It is evident that the author has experimented with the idea proposed in the tagline a little, maybe in order to sound fresh and creative, but sadly, that disguise wears off almost instantly.
There is a substantial drag throughout the book. One shall not expect unpredictability but rather blatant doses of pretentious drama and exaggerated twists. The book worsens with each page and everything deteriorates further. The end is a contemporary testimony of one of the weakest and most amateurish plots, ever.
Tries hard to connect with average Indian youth, but fails
It has been argued that the author has been seen holding the beacon of literary revolution in India, but his all-encompassing mass appeal appears to be restricted only to the disgruntled and disillusioned youth. Also, considering the bombastic proclamation of the success of his bestsellers, one would like to expect his enlightening clarification regarding topics such as liberalisation, secularism, youth and women empowerment. But his personal hypocrisy has been one of the, if not the biggest barrier in the successful execution of his ideologies.
Coming to some technicalities. The author deliberately alters his tone and style to better suit the taste of Indian audience (as if we readers are foolishly oblivious to Western literature.) This particular alteration has been done to appeal to the masses, create a connection with them and sound more realistic. But that surely has compromised with the quality of writing. One can catch the author doing a petty trick of introducing a complex synonym instead of a simple noun in a couple of places. This may have been done to assist the readers to increase their diction whilst entertaining themselves. Also, as one would expect, there are some typical Hindi gaalis in order to grab our wandering attention. It did managed some smirks here and there, but just a couple. One can say the humor is stereotypical, but it is the only thing which helps a reader endure this disasterpiece.
Dragging and predictability are the prime culprits, but an average CB-basher would find a truckload of reasons here to vomit fire on him. There is a constant flavor of self-mockery in the characters and by doing so the author tries hard to connect with the average Indian youth, but pitifully fails as the efforts made by him revolves only around the negative facets. As an alternate perspective, maybe the author has tried to neutralize the anticipated cynicism from the serious readers, and he does this by mocking his own characters, but surely this doesn’t help but accentuate the reader’s detestation much more.
Disappointment is the only constant
There are strands of communal tension in the plot and the author tries his best sensitize the reader. But these attempts look stale and bleak as the explanations are either shallow or generalised. Discerning from the weak dialogues and passive assumptions, one can say that the author has done little or no research on some crucial and sensitive topics such as the Kashmir crisis, revival of Communalism, The Indian Constitution, Armed Forces, among other things; which form the bulk of the book.
Characterisation is still-born, ambiguous, and underdeveloped. Lots of verbiage has been used as fillers. Disappointment is the constant undercurrent and it only aggravates with each turning page. Being left with fuming breaths and clenched fists, we must realize that there’s no one else to blame but us, who expect quality from an author who has sold his art to the film industry long ago.
When a relationship’s future is endangered by communal problems, one is left with little or no options. There is hesitation in continuing the commitment. The same happens with the female protagonist, Zara Lone, who finds herself left stranded by dilemmas, insecurities, and frustration. Eventually, she decides to back-off from the relationship and move on for a stable and secure partner. Raghu fits in the frame but Zara ends up compromising. This thirst intensifies with time and she complies with adultery to satiate her sensual cravings. Unfortunately for Zara, her fiance smells a rat and she ends up losing her life.
The hunger for love and sex are two different things and considering the ever-growing list of expectations we have from our partners, courtesy mass media, we are always on the edge of breaking-up and finding a newer, better partner who would satisfy our piling demands. The author has attempted to normalize the overrated topic of sex, but he fails yet again. In the effort to un-taboo the sex, he weakens his grip on the portrayal of the female lead.
Ajinkya Kale is from Chinchwad, Pune. He is 21 and has successfully endured a 4-year gruelling engineering course from Pune University. He is an avid reader and blogs at thereviewtank.wordpress.com