Monday 14 October 2013

Review: Beaten by Bhagath! by S.V. Divvaakar

Publication year: 2012
Publisher: Leadstart Corp
Stars: 3.5/5
Source: Review copy
‘I’ m sure you can do a much better job than Bhagath!’

When BB hears these inspiring words from his sexy lady boss, his staid life as a successful analyst in an MNC goes into a tailspin. Bitten by the ego bug and smitten by her, BB sets off on his quest to write a book that’s better than India’s greatest writer Dr.Bhagath’s blockbusters. Nothing unusual about this for BB, who likes a good fight. Except that he and Bhagath had been classmates and friends at college.

What follows is a roller-coaster voyage of the debutant author and his book, with all its twists and cul-de-sacs. Brushes with publishers, celebrities, retailers, book chains, and competition with the alliances among giants, mark the challenger’s journey, upping the stakes at every stage.

Will BB catch up with his famous friend?

What will their encounter be like?

Written from inside the ring, ‘Beaten by Bhagath’ is a gripping tale …the first-ever about the unseen side of the wonderland of Indian fiction.


Beaten by Bhagath! by S.V. Divvaakar is a book that truly took me by surprise! Thank you, Mr. Divvaakar, for putting the whole Chetan Bhagat hoopla (or should I say, “K-10 Bhagath”?) into perspective. And in a truly fair and uncritical manner at that.

Beaten by Bhagath!, as suggested by the tagline, is the tale of two kinds of Indian writers: the commercial ex-corporate bigwig whose characters and plots are a hit with youngsters and the reasonably successful banker or executive or corporate dude who has a way with words; who laughs at the former and thinks, “If he can do it, so can I.”

Which is precisely what happens to BB, the narrator of this satirical take on the contemporary Indian fiction writer world! Beaten..! is partly reminiscent of Five Point Someone or if you’re a movie person, 3 Idiots, and the rest is a surprisingly realistic picture of a wannabe author navigating through a number of ludicrous obstacles to achieve his aim of matching the success of the accessible and relatable garden variety novels churned by his college mate Ketan Bhagath (no prizes for guessing what that’s all about).

In the process, he realizes what it takes to be a success in the market: which has less to do with writing and more to do with the hard sell; with celebrity endorsements, buying Facebook Likes, failing to dodge fraud, running after book chains and learning hard truths of how the retailer and book chain system works. As a result, his relationship with his wife slackens and even his book begins to look less appealing. The whole thing threatens to go up in smoke and he wonders what writing his book should’ve been about in the first place.

In a nutshell, it’s not your average love story. It’s not one of those fast paced thrillers. It’s not even the college story it seems to be about at the beginning. What makes this even better: it’s NOT a spoof of Chetan Bhagat novels. In fact, Bhagat isn’t directly slammed in any way. The author makes an honest effort to understand Bhagat’s audience and hypothesise why his style and approach works for him. It does not, however, work for the trillion other writers who strive to duplicate his fan following.

I’m not exactly a Chetan Bhagat fan but I did enjoy reading Two States, have heard good things about What Young India Wants and don’t dislike him, so I respected that there was no downright slamming involved despite the protagonist’s initial resolve to “beat Bhagath”!

Overall, I found Beaten by Bhagath! to be a well-written, refreshing and at times hilarious book chronicling the misadventures of a debutant author. If you have anything resembling an opinion on Indian fiction or are looking/once wanted to be the next Chetan K-10 bestselling author, take one look at the tongue-in-cheek cover and I’m sure you’ll realize that this book is for you!

Clever, breezy and contemplative in its message, books like this making a buzz in the Indian contemporary lit scene wouldn’t be a bad thing at all!

“So, here I go with my most outlandish observation: there’s not much difference between a fiction novel and underwear, in terms of market price. I’m not talking about selling lingerie… that’s a different arena altogether. Isn’t a fiction book about the same retail price as a pair of briefs or banian? If you don’t believe me, check it out. Beauty fiction novel: Rs. 89; Beauty Banian: Rs. 85. Even the covers could easily substitute for each other. The guy in the shorts could well be an author who has lost his pants!” –p.105, Beaten by Bhagath!, S.V. Divvaakar
Rating: ★★★1/2

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HI. Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment. :)