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[This review has been penned by blogger Karthik alias 'The Fool'. I thank him wholeheartedly for doing this guest post.]
I heard of Chetan Bhagat way back in 2005. There used to be a big hype about him in my social circles that consisted mainly of software engineers and MBA aspirants and the first question anyone asked me when I told I was from IIT was whether I had read ‘Five Point Someone’. I have this rebellious streak in me and a penchant for going against the popular tide just for the heck of it. So I resolved never to even touch this author with a barge pole. However things had changed by the time ‘Two States’ got released in 2009. Many of the readers of the popular ‘Bride Hunt’ series on my blog were hailing me as the next ‘Chetan Bhagat’. So I was naturally curious to check out the writing of this author in whose footsteps I purportedly was following. Added attraction was the fact that this story was set in my alma mater, IIM Ahmedabad. Sloth and inertia might have still kept me from this book but for the intervention of my wife, a sworn Chetan Bhagat loyalist, who brought him right up to our drawing room book shelf.
I found the book to be quite a breezy read. There was not a single dull moment and I completed the book in a single hour and a half long session on a lazy morning before going in to work. The best thing about the book was the characterization of the protagonist. I could relate to the character and I found myself rooting for him. The story told in a first person narrative of an underdog protagonist clearly brings sympathy of the reader for him. This character is also well suited for the self-deprecatory humorous narrative that gives the reader quite a few laughs. Having been through the portals of the institute where major part of the story is set in, I could personally relate to many of the places and situations mentioned in the book and that made me nostalgic.
While the parts of the story drawn from the author’s real life experiences have come out very well, I felt the areas where he has tried to be creative fall flat on his face. The descriptions of life at a B-School, the professors, campus interviews etc. are interesting as are the descriptions of the professional setting at a bank. The author manages to use these to good effect to bring humor through satire. In his portrayal of the north south divide in the interactions of the protagonist with his girlfriend’s parents and her interaction with his parents, one can see a mixture of real life experiences and clichés based on popular stereotypes. While the portions based on real life manage to deliver a few laughs, the rest stands out like a sore thumb. I also found the melodrama surrounding the protagonist’s relationship with his father and in a few other places such as the way he decides on marrying his girlfriend unrealistic as well as uninteresting.
One of the areas that did not work for me in this book was the plot. I found it to be unoriginal and completely devoid of novelty: a rehash of age old formulas from Bollywood – stories of love overcoming cultural divide between protagonists and comical attempts of protagonists to win the heart of their lovers’ families. Due to this reason I am not at all excited about the idea of the planned movie based on this book. While ‘Five Point Someone’ brought some new ideas to the table, this book would be giving back to Bollywood, its own jaded worn out themes. I suspect the lackadaisical and inane plot is what the film makers are likely to take from the book and miss out the more endearing aspects such as the self-depreciative humor and the satire around life in B-Schools and corporate world.
As far as the book goes, I would definitely recommend this book as a light read for the casual reader. However this book is a pure entertainer with hardly any takeaway and language that is nothing to write home about. So language pundits and serious readers may do well to give this a miss.
Bio:Karthik is a Bangalore based blogger. A management consultant by profession, he has been blogging since 2008 under an unusual moniker ‘The Fool’. He is very passionate about reading and writing, especially in the science fiction and fantasy genres. He maintains two blogs – ‘Lucifer House Inc.” and “Three Realms of the Mind’ where he writes on various topics across multiple genres – fiction, poetry, satire, memoirs, book reviews, philosophy to name a few. Two of his stories have been published in anthologies and he dreams of becoming a full time writer someday.
Check out the book here