“I am basically an entertainer,” candidly admits Chetan Bhagat, even as he freely and quickly doles out opinions on anything — be it on how privatisation will ensure “better quality education” or how politics is now “cool”.
The best-selling writer spoke to The Hindu on the sidelines of the Bangalore Literature Festival on his life as a writer and man for all seasons on litfest circuits in the country.
Contemporary Indian fiction is growing fast, embracing everything from mythology to science fiction to romance. What are your thoughts?
I have always believed that good books are not prescribed, but written and read. It is nice to see that people are getting out of a mindset where a book has to be written in a certain way or have won a certain award to be qualified as a good book. There is less judgment on books now. Literature fests like this promote reading.
You have been a critic of the education system for long. What are your thoughts on the current scene?
I don’t think our education system brings out talents, the joy of learning is gone and students are under a lot of pressure now. We have a new education minister, Shashi Tharoor, and he seems to be pro-change… There is so much pressure because there is a supply gap when it comes to college seats. We need more colleges and privatising education could go a long way in changing that. Besides, privatising would mean our children get better quality of education.
Do you think you can change people through your writing?
I’m not so foolish as to think that I can shape anyone’s thoughts. But yes, some people’s opinion count more than others and I can help stir public opinion… You are educated and you have a stage, so you have a responsibility to share your point of view. But that is not my main job, I am basically an entertainer.
Do you think people have the freedom to speak up?
I have to be more politically correct now and not as sensational! But we all have our freedom and no one can take that away. The laws on censorship, like what led to the Facebook controversy, cannot and they should not work. These laws are too vaguely worded and dangerous. I agree that if someone is offended they should have a remedy, but the point is not to criminalise it. This creates an atmosphere of fear.