Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone is a disappointment. If the 270-pager has an engaging plot or storyline, the reader doesn’t get an inkling till Page 70, when I gave up on the book. It is not as if Chetan comes up with an unexpected insight into life in a college hostel (for men). The boys in the novel don’t do any thing most of us hadn’t, in our undergrad days. Maybe most of us didn’t have a professor’s daughter for a girl friend.
I bothered to stay with Chetan for the first few chapters because the media hype the author got had raised reader expectations. I plodded through page after unhappening page of pedestrian text, hoping something would happen. Nothing much does. All one gets to read about is some schoolyard bullying of these three freshers, by a bunch of seniors. For the rest, Alok, Hari and Ryan just muddle through the semesters at IIT. A spot of romance, involving Hari and his professor’s daughter, completes the setting.
The bit about romancing one’s professor’s daughter reminded me of the 1970s movie – The Paper Chase - about a campus romance of this Harvard law student with his professor’s daughter. This guy skips group study, slips out from his dorm after hours, to spend a few stolen moments with his girl in her dad’s faculty quarters on the campus. I don’t remember what eventually happened between them in the movie. And I didn’t care to find out what became of the Hari-Neha romance in the book.
My initiation to Chetan Bhagat came via a televised spat he had with Ameer Khan, Raju Hirani and Vidhu Vinod Chopra - the makers of 3 Idiots. Almost everyone I know has seen the movie. This can’t be said for the book, though Chetan Bhagat is, I believe, is prescribed reading for today’s youth. I borrowed my copy from a niece.
For those unfamiliar with the scene, author Chetan Bhagat had made an issue of the credit the movie-maker Vidhu Vinod Chopra gave to Chetan’s book for having adopted its storyline for the movie. The creditline should have been bigger, bolder, and more prominent, said Chetan Bhagat. The film-maker, on his part, held Chetan got more than his due. Director Raju Hirani had apparently re-worked the story so much that what viewers saw in ’3 Idiots‘ didn’t relate to what they read in 5-PS.
At a televised press meet, in response to hecklers in the media Chopra asked how many in the media had read Chetan’s novel. None had; and a visibily irritated Chopra snapped at the gathered mediamen, telling them to ‘shut up’. Chopra’s snap remark stirred a storm in the studio, where empaneled talking heads , summoned by TV channels at short notice, held forth on the film-maker’s temerity to gag the media – how could he, how dare he, ask the media, holy cows of free expression, to shut up.
A review of’ 3 Idiots says its makers borrowed only scraps from Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone. “Rajkumar Hirani and co-writer Abhijat Joshi churn out some delectable idiotgiri, laced with juvenile humour and tear-shedding moments,” says the reviewer whose rating of the movie is 3.5 on a scale of 5. I would give the book 3 point something on a scale of 10.