'Of course there was nervousness when I was about to write The Girl in Room 105'
You are exploring a new genre this time for your latest book – any nervousness you felt writing it? Because in some ways it’s like making a debut. And not just in a new genre but also with Amazon Publishing. Your thoughts?
I believe in doing something new each time, while keeping my existing fans happy. The Girl in Room 105 is a thriller, something I haven't done before, so of course there was some nervousness when I was about to write it. However, it still has elements of a Chetan Bhagat book - simplicity, humour, fun, social issues - which gave me some continuity and hence didn't feel like a complete debut. Changing my publisher was a big decision however, as I moved after 14 wonderful years with Rupa. However, Amazon Publishing has been extremely supportive and as enthusiastic about the book as me, and so we are having a good time promoting it.
You have said previously working with Amazon will step up your game. Is the next move a series on Prime Video?
Prime Video is an option though there are definitely no plans yet. Just being with Amazon Publishing steps up the game in a sense the book travels worldwide better on the Kindle platform, and in Tier-II and III cities in India, where there are a lot of potential new readers for me.
Trailers for the books is new way to get people to read - what convinced you to go with this idea?
We live in times where the phone screen is what people look at for several hours a day. Younger people, who read my books, often watch videos on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. I wanted to reach them through video and then pull them towards a book. I felt doing a 2-minute promo that entices them to know what happened next will get them interested in the book. The positive response we are getting tells me it has worked quite well. Of course I was lucky to have Mohit Suri and Vikrant Massey as friends who made this teaser happen for me, a one of a kind in the world. Amazon Publishing supported it, so kudos to them as well.
I am not against movies or TV or Internet videos, but reading builds creativity and imagination. So pick up more more books.
Since so many of your books are made into films, do you get tempted - at times - to almost write a “screenplay”?
Not at all. I have millions of readers of my books. My first duty is to make them happy. If the book is a big hit, the movie will happen anyway. And the script is going to be written then, and any changes required for the movie can also happen then. After all, it is called an adaptation. I would gain nothing, and it won't work as a book if it is written as a screenplay. In fact, I have not done the screenplay for most of my films.
But when your books are made into films, how invested are you in the screenplay? Are you clued in every step of the way?
I try not to be involved in writing the screenplay. Someone else can bring in a fresher perspective, and I can spend the time doing a new story. I sit at the initial meetings and then mostly let go.
You are a best-selling author – but are criticized a lot – for your writing, for your views etc. How do you deal with the negativity?
When there is a lot of popularity and love, there is bound to be some criticism, especially in something as subjective as a book. There is a lot more love than criticism, and the latter seems like a lot because trolls on the Internet make a lot of noise. However, millions of happy readers who look forward to my books is all I care about really.
Finally, if you had to give a message to the non-readers – what would that be? And to the readers (who are not Chetan Bhagat fans) what would that be?
I would say make reading a part of your life. I am not against movies or TV or Internet videos, but reading builds creativity and imagination. So pick up more more books. And to those who don't particularly like my books, well, find something you like and read that. And promote that author instead of dissing me. Helps everyone!