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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 23 April 2024

All bout Chetan Bhagat’s 400 Days

Suspense, relationships, love and more come together in the author’s latest page turner

Sudarshana Ganguly (t2 Intern) Published 03.11.21, 01:13 AM

400 Days has a chilling plotline –– a missing child. However, it does not simply end at that. As one of India’s highest-selling and most popular authors, Chetan Bhagat needs no introduction. In his latest work, 400 Days, he has made sure to build a plot that not only keeps the readers on the edge of their seats, but also touches their heart. 400 Days is the third story from the Keshav-Saurabh series after The Girl in Room 105 and One Arranged Murder. Revolving around a kidnapping and a forbidden love story, the book presents “an unputdownable tale of suspense, human relationships, love, friendship, the crazy world we live in and, above all, a mother’s determination to never give up.” Here are excerpts from a chat with The Telegraph.

What prompted you to bring out 400 Days? What is the inspiration behind it?

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It’s a book I wrote in the lockdown. The schools had shut down, so, every young child now has a phone and I don’t think we are realising what this means –– that anybody can talk to any child on the Internet now. You might not let your child talk to some stranger on the balcony but anybody can approach them on the Internet and I think that’s something we are not paying as much attention to. Then, of course, I wanted to do a story that was a little different from what I had done before. Thrillers are a recent thing but I did not want it to be just a thriller –– I wanted it to have more layers. I wanted it to be a love story, but a little more complex love story where the love is not so simple and the audience would have a moral dilemma. On one level, it would feel right, what is happening between Keshav and Alia, but one level, it is also very wrong.

400 Days is a thriller romance –– how did you go about building this story in this genre?

I am not an expert like in CID or Crime Patrol or even Agatha Christie; I am not that hardcore kind of crime-solving person. Adding a mystery makes the book more gripping and interesting to read, but that is not the only thing I am known for. Most people read my book for the friendship, for the romance, for the humour. These three components are a must. So, even if it is a dark story, it is of course a very dark story when there is a child missing, but I wanted to bring in the element of love. In fact, till the last minute, I did not know how we should position the book, how we should market it, what should the cover have –– because I thought is it a missing child story or a love story, both are equally important, honestly. But then we felt that the missing child story is the unique thing, so let’s go with that as the cover. So, that’s how it was. In my head, it was never only a thriller. To me, the Keshav and Alia story was equally important.

Are there any genres you would like to try in the future?

I haven’t done motivation genre in books, for example. I have done a lot of motivation talks, I have a motivation channel on YouTube but not a book. I don’t believe in genres, to be honest. People keep saying what is 400 Days? Is it really a thriller, if you look at the Keshav and Alia story? Is it a funny book? I don’t know. So, I think if there is a genre, it is the Chetan Bhagat genre, that’s it. So, I will see, but I don’t write thinking this is the genre. I find it a bit strange because it really is difficult to slot 400 Days. If you ask me, it is a very old-fashioned way of looking at things, when books used to have a prime place. Now, books are a genre because there are other forms on the Internet as well.

How important would you say experimenting is to you, given that particular genres have given you immense success?

I think it’s very important. You have to give people what they didn’t know they wanted, if you want to be really relevant for a really long time, have some excitement around every book that is coming. They may say Chetan Bhagat writes more like this, but sooner or later, they will say it is repetitive. So, I think being fresh is very important, even more important than living up to what is expected of you, especially in the entertainment space. So, you need to keep reinventing yourself, if possible. I try to do that. It’s definitely a risk, every time I do something new. It was very risky to write this story, because if I didn’t get the beat right with sensitivity –– a mother looking for her lost child –– it would have gone all wrong. The idea was to do something that happens, but also present it in a fresh way.

You have always tried to touch upon pertinent issues through easy-to-read language. What did you try to address in 400 Days?

Making my books accessible has been a very big goal for me. People are finding it hard to read because they are getting distracted by so many things available these days. This is why it is important that the book is simple and not very taxing on the reader. For some reason, we have an India where we believe that the more complicated a book, the better it is. But that’s not how it works. Victory is not in showing how complicated your English is, but it is making people pick up a book in times of the internet with Reels, Instagram and so on.

You have been a celebrated author for a long time. What advice would you like to give budding authors?

Work hard, write well and have a lot of mental clarity. People need to be clear about what they want to say, which they often don’t. To be a great writer, you have to be a great thinker too.

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