Chetan Bhagat learns how to 'unlove' with his next — a murder mystery set in urban India

Chetan Bhagat is pushing his boundaries and taking things a notch above with an Internet-breaking video trailer for his upcoming book The Girl in Room 105. Directed by Mohit Suri with Vikrant Massey in the lead, the trailer tells the story of Keshav, who is still pining for his ex-girlfriend from four years ago. The girl, Zara, is a Muslim from Kashmir, while Keshav’s father is a senior member of the RSS. Snippets of bomb blasts and snow-covered valleys later, Zara wants to get back with Keshav and invites him to her hostel in the middle of the night. A series of gun shots, policemen and chase scenes are all we know of the plot till now. Post the release of the trailer, Chetan Bhagat chatted with t2 on his writing process and what he aims to achieve with this book that launches on October 9. 

By Shrestha Saha
  • Published 5.09.18
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Vikrant Massey stars in the trailer for Chetan Bhagat’s new book The Girl in Room 105, which dropped on Monday 

Chetan Bhagat is pushing his boundaries and taking things a notch above with an Internet-breaking video trailer for his upcoming book The Girl in Room 105. Directed by Mohit Suri with Vikrant Massey in the lead, the trailer tells the story of Keshav, who is still pining for his ex-girlfriend from four years ago. The girl, Zara, is a Muslim from Kashmir, while Keshav’s father is a senior member of the RSS. Snippets of bomb blasts and snow-covered valleys later, Zara wants to get back with Keshav and invites him to her hostel in the middle of the night. A series of gun shots, policemen and chase scenes are all we know of the plot till now. Post the release of the trailer, Chetan Bhagat chatted with t2 on his writing process and what he aims to achieve with this book that launches on October 9. 

You went live on social media and let slip the word “murder”! Tell us about the detour you have taken from your usual style and genre. 

I have written many books now with this being my eighth novel and honestly, one of the reasons my readers like me is because they expect the unexpected. It is a Chetan Bhagat book, so it needs to have an element of surprise. I received feedback and everyone seemed to say ‘Oh, this is a Chetan Bhagat love story with a small-town boy and girl!’ and I definitely did not want to get repetitive. So this is my effort to try and do something different, I guess. 

For me, personally, the thrill was in doing something that I haven’t done before, something that doesn’t come too easily to me. So my last novel One Indian Girl was written in a female voice, and for this one I have done a thriller, mystery of sorts for the first time, and I am just trying to create some excitement around it. These days getting young people away from their screens and bringing them back to books is a task. So the promo is an attempt to get the Facebook and Instagram generation back to reading. If I can get them to watch the video, I can hopefully get them excited about picking up the book. 

I find it very difficult to move on from any kind of relationship, not just romantic. The new generation is able to “unlove” pretty quickly.... So this inspiration has come from my own personal experience 
— Chetan Bhagat

The trailer shows Kashmir and mentions RSS. What kind of a reaction are you anticipating to this? 

The story is not political in that sense. It is a thriller but the backdrop is India of today. This is the India we live in, with all its good and bad. I have always tried to be as realistic as possible because that is my job as a writer, to point out what’s happening in the society. This is not the first time I have taken up a social issue that exists in our country as a backdrop to my story, but I am glad you noticed that. There is a blink-and-miss presence of it in the promo. 

There’s a tag line that comes at the end of the trailer — “An Unlove Story” What exactly do you mean by it?

I think we celebrate love a lot but sometimes, love ends and it is not in your hands to change the course of the story. You can’t just unplug from love. There is a whole journey involved in getting over someone to reach a point where you can say that you don’t think about them anymore, that you are indifferent towards them, that you “unlove” them. I think that needed to be spoken about and I thought that would make a more interesting story than what I have done already. 

“Unloving” someone who has broken up with you as opposed to someone who is dead are two very different things. How have you dealt with that in the book?

That you will have to read the book and find out (laughs). You have this guy who is not able to get over this girl for four years, and suddenly the girl wants to get back with him and something unexpected happens. You have to pick up the book to know what happens next! 

What has been your inspiration for this story? Any particular book or experience?

I personally find it very difficult to move on from any kind of relationship, not just romantic. The new generation is able to “unlove” pretty quickly, I think, but I find it rather difficult. This is the “unfollow” generation where if you don’t like someone, you just unfollow them on social media. So this inspiration has come from my own personal experience. Also, I wanted to address the kind of Hindu-Muslim prejudices that exist in our country. I have dealt with it with a lighter touch. I won’t say that I have gone hardcore into it but just enough to get people talking. 

Published by Westland; Rs 159 (available for pre-order on amazon.in)

When did your writing process begin? What kind of research did you put into it?

So I have a new publisher this time —Amazon Westland — and crime and thriller is a very big part of bestsellers but I have never tried that. So I said, “Can I try that?” and they said, “Yes”. It will still be a Chetan Bhagat book revolving around a relationship, fun and humour. I was lucky that they believed that I should do my own thing. 
I always wanted to do something revolving around Kashmir and bring in the Hindu-Muslim angle but from the point of view of the current generation. We always hear about Kashmir from experts and all the stories we read are mostly statistics. But what about the average Indian and the average Kashmiri? How does the story look to them? Most of today’s generation does not really care about the Kashmir problem. But that’s okay because that’s where my process began and I read a lot of other mystery writers from the past to figure out how I should go about it. 

Any favourite author in the crime genre?

Hitchcock and Agatha Christie. I am not saying I am anywhere close to them, they were the inspiration but I can’t compete with them. I am not as good as Agatha Christie in terms of writing mystery, so this will be more like a Chetan Bhagat book which is a mystery. 

It is not a political book, there isn’t much of Kashmir but even a mention helps. Just giving a light touch to a wide readership, where you tell the story in such a way that at least they know what is happening there. 

Any plans to make a movie on this? 

We made the trailer because we wanted to make books exciting. My sole priority now is still the book and I don’t know if there will be a movie in the future but I am not thinking about it now. The movie may or may not happen later, it’s fine but right now I just want to get people to read. 

If there is ever a movie in the offing, I just feel that there should be a good director on board. I don’t play a role in the casting as long as there is a great director. I am going to see the reaction that this book has and then take it from there. Bollywood has that shine and glamour but books need my support! There are actors who are supporting movies but books only have me!