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One Arranged Murder: Chetan Bhagat opens up about his 9th book

It’s never going to be a hardcore crime novel; It won’t have things going under the microscope or DNA testing happening; there will be love and there will be an Indian flavour

Shrestha Saha Published 25.08.20, 10:16 PM
Chetan Bhagat

Chetan Bhagat Sourced by The Telegraph

As has been the norm in the past, Chetan Bhagat, who treats his fans to a new book every two years, is ready with his next called One Arranged Murder (Westland; Rs 225). Continuing with the experiment he started doing with his genre and structure in the last book, The Girl in Room 105, this one too is a thriller where an arranged marriage takes a wild turn with an unprecedented murder. Characters like Keshav and Saurabh appear again in this one as they investigate the disappearance of the woman who almost married the latter. On the day of the release of his trailer, starring Vikrant Massey, Bhagat got on a quick Zoom call with The Telegraph to discuss everything that led to Bhagat’s ninth book. Excerpts…

So we find you returning to the book trailer concept for the second time…
In the midst of lockdown, this is something that we can do with reduced mobility. I can’t do a traditional book launch and video consumption is the way forward, be it Instagram or YouTube. Especially amongst youngsters. And if I want to make them read a book, I have to give them a medium that would intrigue them. It is my way of connecting the video world to the world of the book. Hardcore readers will pick up the book anyway but there are people who only read Chetan Bhagat (laughs) and to those people I have to say ‘Hello, I write books, please come and read’.

This is the first time you have used recurring characters with a story that well could have picked off from where the last one left off…
This is my ninth book and the first seven were all some kind of love stories. The last book was a thriller, a murder mystery. Normally the best-selling genre is crime, but I hadn’t done that for the first seven books. However, I got a great response when I tried it. Attention spans have become lesser and people are not so excited any more to know if the boy got the girl at the end. ‘Did the boy kill the girl’ is more interesting. So I wanted to explore a genre that creates more thrill and proves to be a better page-turner. But it’s a Chetan Bhagat book so it’s never going to be a hardcore crime novel. It won’t have things going under the microscope or DNA testing happening; there will be love and there will be an Indian flavour. For instance, here the boy wants to be a detective but parents are saying ‘shaadi kar lo’. We got a great response and people loved the characters. I had done 2 States which was a love marriage, but I hadn’t touched arranged marriages. I decided to explore it, but with murder.

Vikrant Massey in the trailer

Vikrant Massey in the trailer Sourced by The Telegraph

Last time we spoke, you spoke about the book’s (The Girl in Room 105) challenge being a brand new genre but now that you have gotten the hang of thrillers, what was challenging about writing One Arranged Murder?
The reason the book worked last time was that the detective was very involved with the case, in the sense that it’s his own ex-girlfriend. I am no Agatha Christie or Alfred Hitchcock writing pure crime. I needed to show my characters’ emotions and for that, they needed to be personally involved in the case. This time, Saurabh has agreed to an arranged marriage and the couple is trying to be cute and in love. She even keeps a Karva Chauth fast for him. He goes up to the terrace to meet her and she is not there, she is dead! So obviously they have to solve this case and since I had two characters, I could make one of them personally invested in the case and one of them in detective mode. So that was the challenge. I had to make it more fun, gripping and exciting than the last one. Now I am aware of what worked and didn’t work and have a good grip on how to make a thriller work and what makes for edge-of-the-seat reading.

Tell us about the kind of work that goes into creating a ‘Chetan Bhagat book’ — from inception to the final copy.
I know people think that it’s a Chetan Bhagat book, it’s simple English and anybody can write it but in reality, a lot of work goes into a book. The amount of effort required is immense and I can do it as well because I have so many resources that come from so many people reading what I write. For example, I can make this trailer. I have so many people reading and watching that it feels justified to do this. The main thing is to come up with a great story that defines the characters, the nuances and the central conflict. What is it all about? The language is less of a priority for me Then there is a lot of research from real-life cases, for thrillers. For example, there was a girl in Gurgaon who was on the roof celebrating Karva Chauth and she died. That’s a real case that inspired this book. Writing is followed by a lot of editing. I ask a lot of my readers to be critical about my work. They tell me what is wrong and then those improvements happen.
I am very aware of my country and I am an Indian writer. I do not belong to the group of people who call themselves Indian writers but don’t write for India. But I am doing that. The average Indian reader has a very basic grasp of English that doesn’t extend to high vocabulary English. So you have to keep it simple, so much so that even someone who is non-native to English or who reads rarely, can sit back and enjoy the book. Then we work on the cover, followed by marketing. Honestly, I don’t have to do much any more in marketing; it’s like Apple iPhones. You launch it and you do one or two cool things, which in this case was the cover launch and the trailer and you are good to go.

How involved are you in the trailer-making process?
A lot. The whole conception, scripting was mine and then came on board Sankalp Sadanah who was initially associated with Half Girlfriend, later working with Mohit Suri in Malang. He directed the promo and I conceived the idea. When you make a movie trailer, you have the entire film that you have to cut into a one-minute video. When it is a book trailer, you have to build from scratch. This time, because of corona, things became very difficult. We were going to launch this in April but we kept pushing, till we couldn’t wait any more.

Sourced by The Telegraph

How would you define your relationship with social media?
I was very big on Twitter and it paid great dividends; I have some 13 million followers. I thought I was a writer so I needed to be there but I got very late when it came to Instagram. It was a mistake. About two years back, I kind of discovered Instagram and realised it’s pretty good. It’s perfectly okay to put texts and I even started sharing moments from my motivational talks. We had a great response and my Instagram is now as active as my Twitter. We are seeing benefits of it, today we launched the promo and maximum views are on Instagram! I was called the ‘youth writer’ but I am not young any more. I am 46 but then again, I am a writer and writers are meant to empathise. I should be able to connect with an 80-year-old as well as an 18-year-old. I know everything is shifting to visual and hence we have a promo.

How has the lockdown treated you?
It was very difficult in the beginning because I am also a motivational speaker and I end up going for around 50 events a year. I just miss seeing my name on a boarding pass, it’s been way too long. Going to auditoriums and meeting youngsters was a part of my life for the last 10 years. I struggled with it but then I thought that I often tell my readers to be productive and stay motivated so I did the same. I could write and I did. I finished the next book even and one might not have to wait for two years, as has been the norm, to read it and it might just arrive next year!

Do you ever feel any pressure for what you do?
I feel pressure to write a good book. Most famous writers around the world, if I name them, you will perhaps be able to tell me only one or two books by them. And that is not what I wanted. I treat each book as a challenge like it’s my first book and I have managed to keep people excited till my ninth book.
Whenever I test readers reading my book, I ask them to rank that amongst my own books. It has to be within the top three. I want them to say “It’s as good as 2 States” and I am satisfied with that. Right now, no one even knows what is in the book and yet people are pre-ordering and it’s number one on Amazon. That comes from the trust that people have in me and I don’t want to break that.

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