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Chetan Bhagat And His Impact On Indian English Literature – Tracing The Positives And The Drawbacks With The Best Way Forward

Chetan Bhagat and his impact on Indian English literature – tracing the positives and the drawbacks with the best way forward

Anyone who claims to indulge in reading Indian English literature must have heard about Chetan Bhagat. The phenomena that annunciated the revolution in Indian English fiction – making it accessible, simple, friendly and ‘consumable’. Before Bhagat, one might say, common readers knew very little about what was happening in the world of English literature in India. Though there were authors, books and also a certain section of readers who used to consume the literature produced, the audience at large was seldom involved in anything. We only used to know who won some award, who became a bestseller and who was the new face of Indian English literature. And all this came to the common audience via newspapers and news channels. There was no direct connection between Indian English authors and the audience at large. In other words, it was a very limited supply chain with a rather minuscule set of consumers. After Chetan Bhagat’s debut in Indian English fiction, however, this process changed, expanded and rather grew much bigger in size compared to what it was before. Bhagat challenged the status quo and succeeded in bringing the Gods sitting on higher pedestals down to earth. The cost, nevertheless, is something that we critics, reviewers and readers have been assessing until now. And I will do it again, in this article.

It is not even debatable that Chetan Bhagat is a prominent figure in contemporary Indian English literature, known for his popular novels that often explore themes of love, relationships, and societal issues. With the help of his simple literature, easy-to-read language and rather simplistic plots, his work has garnered a wide readership, it is always essential to critically evaluate his writing style, acknowledging his achievements while addressing the drawbacks. I will do the same as this article aims to analyse Bhagat’s writing style, compare him with other significant novelists of the period, and assess his contributions to Indian English literature. Well, before that, if you want to know why Bhagat is so popular and what makes him a darling of casual readers of fiction in India, you are suggested to read this excellent article – Why is Chetan Bhagat Popular? (The link will open in a new tab. If you want, go ahead and read the article, and come back.)


Chetan Bhagat’s Achievements in Literature:

Let us begin with the achievements of Bhagat in the field of literature. It becomes important (and ethical) to accept someone’s talent. When we analyse the scenario in Indian English literature before and after Bhagat, things become rather clear. Unlike the authors before him, Chetan Bhagat’s major achievements lie in his ability to connect with a vast audience, particularly the grip over the young readership in India. His famous novels, such as “Five Point Someone,” “2 States the story of my marriage,” and “Half Girlfriend,” have resonated with readers, capturing the aspirations, dilemmas, and challenges faced by the modern Indian youth. He does have a unique talent for using themes and subjects that have a mass appeal – love, relationships, day-to-day challenges faced by millions, and more. Additionally, Bhagat’s accessible language, relatable characters, and contemporary treatments of the themes have made literature more accessible to a wider audience, fostering a reading culture and sparking conversations on social issues. It was not the scene before Bhagat. Authors like Roy, Lahiri, Adiga, Ghosh, Kumar, Desai and more were in their own words, trying to woo the international audience while leaving a vast section of readers unsatisfied. And there is no shame in admitting that the Indian audience, at large, is still not well-versed in reading the English language with complexities. They prefer clean, simple and accessible expressions. And who can deny that Bhagat opened the gates to a massive audience base for many authors to woo and access?

Drawbacks of Bhagat’s Writing Style:

Despite his success, Bhagat’s writing style exhibits certain drawbacks. Though there are many drawbacks that one can count and list, major ones can be highlighted rather conveniently, and many would agree. Let’s begin with the lack of literary depth and complexity in Bhagat’s storytelling. It is not so difficult to notice that the narratives in Bhagat’s novels often rely on simplistic language, predictable plotlines, and stereotypical characters, compromising the intellectual engagement and emotional depth that distinguishes acclaimed literary works. However, one has to note that Bhagat himself denied producing critical works or works that cater to a limited audience. He writes for the masses (in his defence, he says) and the masses read simple language, straightforward stories and novels that are easy to read and understand. However, to reach a wider audience, it is evident, that Bhagat trades literary depth and complexity of characters. Is it justified? Is it ethical? And is it a worthy exchange? You may decide. Chetan has decided to do the same, novel after novel. The choice of themes is good, relevant and praiseworthy. On a literary measure, however, everything else just falls flat and invites criticism. On a scale of popularity, nevertheless, he has achieved almost everything.

Comparison with Other Major Novelists:

Bhagat has put himself on an entirely different level when it comes to the number of sales. However, in terms of writing style, literary merits and utility of literary output, it is a very interesting comparison between Bhagat and other contemporary novelists. Can we compare him with novelists such as Arundhati Roy, Kiran Desai, or Jhumpa Lahiri? I guess yes, in terms of number of sales and popularity. Ask anyone in the literary circles and they will them all. However, ask anyone in the first year of IITs, freshers in general degree colleges or even law graduates at Delhi University, they might not know Lahiri, Desai and Ghosh. However, they will all nod yes if you ask about Bhagat. However, in terms of writing style, literary merits and other factors that critics notice while critically analysing an author, Bhagat’s writing style falls short in terms of overall literary craftsmanship. There must not be any ifs and buts about it! Even an author like Adiga or Thayil, who is in a class of his own, exhibits a way deeper understanding of the literary craft. Authors who tend to produce literary fiction exhibit a rich command of the language, intricate storytelling techniques, and nuanced character development. Their works delve into complex themes, offering profound insights into human nature, society, and culture. In contrast, Bhagat’s novels prioritise accessibility and entertainment over literary depth, appealing to a different segment of readers. A trade is made in either case – and we cannot say one is wrong, another is right.

Bhagat’s Impact on Indian English Literature:

Though cynics might tell other tales, it is totally undeniable that Chetan Bhagat has made a very visible impact on Indian English literature. And the very important impact that we can all easily witness is in making reading novels popular among the youth and broadening the audience for Indian authors. There is no doubt in admitting that his success has encouraged other aspiring writers to explore contemporary themes and cater to the diverse interests of young readers. However, the impact, let us admit, is not only in a progressive direction. The quality of literature produced by emerging authors, sadly, has gone down. Literary merits have taken a dive and reached further depths of negligence for quality and acceptance of popularity at any cost. Authors like Durjoy Datta and Nikita Singh know no boundaries when it comes to wooing their readers. Inspired by Bhagat, they have taken down the bars of literary standards further low (though their fame could never even touch that of Bhagat from a close distance of a kilometre). This is a dilemmatic analysis that tells you Bhagat has made reading novels popular but at the very cost of what readers have to read! Can we blame him for what others do? No! Can we use his works as the benchmark of ‘bestselling bad literature’? Yes. Has Indian English fiction taken a nose dive to further lows after the Bhagat phenomenon? YES! I will leave it here, guys.

The Way Forward:

While Chetan Bhagat’s contributions to Indian English literature cannot be dismissed, albeit the frontiers will have to be there, there is still too much room left for further growth and development. Aspiring writers, who are inspired by Bhagat or not, will have to strike a balance. They should strive for a balance between accessibility and literary excellence, incorporating more depth, complexity, and artistic merit into their narratives. At the same time, authors who are inspired by classic and traditional authors should ensure that young readers can have something to read and relate to in their literature. For example, a young boy of 18 who wants some respite in relatable literature cannot be left astray in the complexities of ecological balance in Sundarban, wandering and reaching nowhere. At the same time, an elderly person of 57 cannot be left tied to the senseless romance between two teenagers. Therefore, a balance is required and it must be there so that young readers can have their share of entertainment and the elderly can enjoy their leisure hours with sensible literature. By exploring diverse storytelling techniques, delving into deeper themes, and crafting well-rounded characters, future authors can build upon Bhagat’s foundation and elevate Indian English literature to greater heights. What do you think?


To conclude, I can say that no one can deny that Bhagat has contributed many things to Indian English literature, including the fact that literature can certainly act as a source of entertainment, including many things else. Literature was only a source of intellectual gossip and something inaccessible for youths and readers at large before Bhagat, no doubt. Indian English literature, after Bhagat, reached the masses and offered them something to read, relate to and enjoy. However, a widespread interest in reading and sparking conversations on contemporary themes was a new experiment that has done its job and faded away. The same readers who read Bhagat once and enjoyed are now questioning the utility of his literature (and others’ who have modelled their careers following Bhagat’s footprints). Therefore, Bhagat and others have to think of something new, something that can accommodate young aspirations and fully developed ideas together, leaving space for everyone who looks up to contemporary literature.


By AM for The Last Critic

This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. This is a very good assessment of the man… the man who supposedly changed the course of Indian English fiction. We can always debate whether it had good impacts or bad… however, we can seldom be absolute in our assessment of Chetan Bhagat as an author and a novelist…

  2. Chetan Bhagat is always an interesting topic… I cannot see away from the fact that he has brought a democratic change in Indian reading and writing habits… you are right there. However, other points are raised in the best interest and I totally agree… authors do need to find something in between. Cheers! Keep writing more like this.

  3. Very good article… actually tells what Chetan Bhagat produces and what he could and others should do to make Indian English literature better.

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