Hari Shanker R

Hari Shanker R

Writer, Journalist, Coder, Creative Artist

Two States by Chetan Bhagat – A review

Three books and one movie strong, Chetan Bhagat has indeed become a name to reckon with. More than a youth icon, he’s become a celebrity himself. Fact is, it actually took him three years to graduate to being a full-time writer. And with each book, he’s improved a lot. A hell lot, I’d say.

‘Two States’ catapults the 35 year old author to the top rung of all Indian authors in English.

Two States

The storyline of the book is predictable from the feel-good titling itself. Two protagonists – Krish Malhotra (a punjabi) and Ananya Swaminathan (a tamilian) are classmates at IIM Ahmedabad. A rendezvous at the college canteen bonds them together, and in a matter of weeks (or rather, days) the duo are sleeping together in hostel rooms. Love blossoms, and by the time the duo pass out of college, they’ve decided to get married to each other. The hurdles seem insurmountable in the beginning – jarring differences between their parents, their cultures and the language barrier being the reasons. Krish gets himself posted in Citibank chennai, where Ananya is working with HLL, and sets the ball rolling. Their carefully-crafted plans suffer occasional hindrances and at one point in time, the entire affair goes topsy turvy but things magically (I repeat, magically) get sorted out with the typical,  happily-ever-after-Bhagat-climax. :-)

I was actually smiling for at least two of the three and a half -odd hours spent on Two States. :-D Yes, the first thing that strikes you is the endearing quality of the prose. I’d clearly vote for ‘Two states’ as the most endearing work by this youth icon writer. Chetan has actually tried out an entirely different layout for the book, quite different from the usual crop. So, we have book that’s written like  the script for a drama or even a teleplay, for that matter. Yes, the chapters are divided into Acts I, II, III, IV and V! The language is simpler, the descriptions are more vivid and the plot is better-laid-out. Bhagat has carefully edited out the sex though! :P Yet, the chemistry between the protagonists is much more evident. The pacing of the book is again perfect – not one boring moment in the book! Once you start reading, you’d only put the book down when you’re done with it.

However, the most spectacular feature of the book is the autobiographical element.

It all starts with the subtitle of the book – “the story of my marriage”. Bhagat himself has admitted that the story is inspired from his own life. Yes, he’s a Punjabi and his wife Anusha  is from Tamil Nadu, and they did study together at IIM Ahmedabad. Krish and Ananya have twin kids (yeah, I spoiled your climax! :P) just like Mr. Bhagat and his wife do. Plus, the book seems to be a straight part 2 of ‘Five Point Someone’. ‘Hari’ has apparently become ‘Krish’. There are mentions of ‘lost semesters’, ‘affairs with the prof’s daughter’, ‘traveling in car with the professor’, and there’s even a detailed chapter regarding how the old affair didn’t materialize. And to top it all, we have Krish’s repeated affirmations about his ambition to be ‘a full time author’. Krish actually goes about saying that he’d resign his well-paying Citibank job some years down the line! :P The parallels with real-life scores a high score in the endearing-meter. :)

Not everything about the book  is rosy, though.

Even though Bhagat has been maturing progressively as an author, the looks of his cover-pages are on a clear downward spiral. Five point someone had a snazzily-designed, awesome cover page. But, the cover page of Two states sucks ass! Even going by the adage about not judging a book by its cover, the first-appearance does give a stunning visual impact about the contents. The jarring-red outer-cover with a classless silhoutte-graphic might’ve scared at least a few thousands of potential readers, I’d daresay!  Besides, on the whole, the book’s story is straight out of a bollywood movie – perhaps, this has something to do with Bhagat’s newfound tryst with the industry. Like ‘Three Mistakes’, ‘Two states’ has its ultra-corny moments. The way Ananya and Krish impress the others’ parents – that’s way too good to be true. Agreed, ‘Two states’ is fiction, but for a book that has autobiographical content, Bhagat could’ve been more realistic. Talking about Bhagat’s ‘common-man-style’ – many critics continue to denigrate it.  In a way, the style is a double-edged sword for Bhagat. It has endeared the author to the masses, but has given him only brickbats from ‘high-brow’ critics. Maybe, Chetan would silence them in his next work.

Minus non-realism, minus the cover, Two States shares space with ‘Five Point Someone’ in terms of awesomeness! :) I’m strongly recommending the book. It’d be a proud addition to your library, and for 95 rupees, it’s very much affordable and worth every pie. I loved it for the chemistry between the protagonists, the endearing moments, the tongue-in-cheek humor, the simple-yet-poignant ‘Bhagat-logic’, and of course, the central theme – LOVE!

Guess what, I badly wanted to get  married after reading the book! :)

My Rating: 9.2/10

STRONGLY RECOMMENDED!

Observation:

Have you noticed something? All of Chetan Bhagat’s books have got to do something with numbers! I’m assuming it has got to do something with the author’s IIT education.

Five Point someone

One Night @ The Call Centre

Three Mistakes of my Life

Two States

The next book will have something to do with ‘Four’. :P

27 Comments

  1. Ranjeet F J

    'Two States’ catapults the 35 year old author to the top rung of all Indian authors in English.

    I must say that such a claim is outlandish and Chetan Bhagat deserves no such honour. There are far FAR FAAAAR better writers than him around. If Salman Rushdie had a pet dog and that dog could write, I'm sure that animal would come up with something better than 'Two States'. Some good points about the book:

    1) It costs Rs 95/- (Thanks to Rupa)

    2)um….nothing else really. It's too filmy type. It might make a wathcable movie.

    Reply
    1. hari

      Lol @ Rushdie and his pet dog! :P

      I take your point, but see… the reason why I listed him as a top author is just because he appeals to the lowest common denominator. :) And of course, sales volumes would agree. :)

      Reply
  2. Abhi

    I thought the book was written more like a screenplay and it had all the stupid elements of a soap opera. It is extremely stupid to please the girls' or guys' families in reality and the way its written in the book is like it is taken out of some K series TV soap.

    The rona dhona of the serials is there, but in addition the way two IIM grads are shown to be life savers in too many occasions in the book is too hard to believe. Maybe Mr Bhagat gets his money from the movies now; but then he shouldn't forget that he has just written his 4th book and people go to watch his screenplay's in the multiplex's just coz the books were good. Already they had a shock with Hello. If 3 Idiots also goes the same way(which I hope not); then that will be the END of the Most successful English author from India!!

    Reply
    1. hari

      Totally. I concur. There are Masala element and there's C-L-I-C-H-E written down in virtually every line and paragraph.

      And yeah, lets hope the next movie doesn't go the Hello way.

      Reply
  3. Raouf

    You know I am critical of Bhagat's writing. 5 point someone was novel , the other two were a step down each. So I am predisposed to diss the new book and hence the comment in orkut.

    The thumbs-up from you is surprising and hence am very eager to get my hands on it. The 2 negative comments above have only made me so curious as to what caused such a difference in opinions.

    I will be back to comment here once I do get to read it.

    @Abhi:

    Dont hold Hello against Chetan Bhagat, I don't expect even an advertisement to break even if it features Sohail Khan. :D

    Reply
    1. hari

      Raouf, since you already have a negative predisposition about the author, I don't think you'd like this one. You're the high brow guy, and I'm sure you'd return with a scathing comment on this one too.

      Btw, I've got the book with me. Feel free to ask if you don't get a copy. :P

      And Sohail Khan. God, it's high time he left to Himalayas in search of nirvana. :|

      Reply
  4. shalini

    ive not read this book yet.but hari's review is so good that the next thing im gonna do is to pick this book from a near by store n read.i think harishankar is a chetan bhagat in the making..

    Reply
    1. hari

      Lol, thanks chechi. :) But I don't wanna be a Chetan Bhagat (although I wouldn't mind studying at IIM-A! :P ) I would ideally love to be a Jeffrey Archer. :)

      Reply
  5. /urgu

    Chetan Bhagat caters exclusively to the railway station bookstore population. Good stuff for a journey, with no embellishments or flourishes. Good for one, and one read only. Just timepass. But he does it well, even Ranjeet will admit that. But nothing more.

    Reply
    1. Ranjeet F J

      Guru's taken the words right out of my mouth.Timepass level book and void of flowery language and embellishments.But The Inconvenient Truth (as far as I'm concerned) is that when you look at the sales volumes- that indicates the measure of his success. The bottomline(butt crack?) is :- he knows how to cater to popular demands and can sell books. As far as publishing houses are concerned, that's good enough to promote his work.

      And I guess it's something you OUGHT to read( whether you like it or not is not the question here).

      Reply
  6. hari

    I would like to contest the 'one-read' part. As I write this comment, I've finished reading the book twice. :P And yeah, it's timepass.

    Not everyone's a Bhagat fan. :)

    Reply
  7. praseeth

    got a glimpse of this now ……….i have read all cb books at least 10 times each and this one too didnt disappoint me . It talks about social evils , conservative stupidities and the concept of a rich getting richer india which is dished tuned to the reading taste of an average joe . The fact that even my cousin who just got to class 8 enjoyed it as much as i and even my mother did makes this book SIMPLE enough to be succesful. The humour was good too .

    Reply
  8. Sandip

    hey guys……what u expect in 95 rupees yar………….just take some pocorn sit in ur balcony………..n enjoy three hrs journey from ahemadabad –> delhi –> chennai……..thats it !!!!……… it filmy………take it in that way…….

    Reply
  9. Ajay

    First- The book name should have been "Two families" and not "Two States"… With just his wife's family he cant judge the entire state…

    Second- Though some of his views about girls may be correct not all are true…

    Private things could be avoided… Girls today are not vulnerable as he thinks…

    I wish atleast in his next book the story goes without "I"… Means he describing the story…

    Reply
  10. deepak

    This was my first read to chetan bhagat & let me tell u ,i actually enjoyed it a lot.In today's fast and tensed life all u need is a light stuff that makes u feel easy and this book does it well enough. I was in a new city , new job and new atmosphere when i read it and frankly speaking i completely lost in my memories while reading it.One negative thing in this book is that KRISH does a lot to convince ANANYA'S family but when it is her turn to , she just hands down.Just after one meeting with his mother ,she immedieately denied from any possibility to be able to serve his mother.So the moral of thebook is –boys do anything for their lovers but what abt the female side. i wish if HARI replies it. ONLY FOR HARI- HEY BUDY PLEASEMAIL ME PERSONALLY AS I WANA TALK TO U ABT SOMETHING SERIOUS. YOU HAVE MY MAIL ID SO PLZ………….

    Reply
  11. Himsingz

    I would correct you :-). I would say that Chetan 'also' appeals to the lowest denominator. Most of our 'celebrated' desi English language authors express themselves so self-consciously and are so over-nuanced… it hurts!! They can only appeal to the equally stilted high-brow minority. And some prize-giving institutions. Chetan's deliberately simple style mixed with observation, insight, delightful humour and an endearingly sensible perspective on things is path-breaking for an Indian author, no matter how contrived some of the plot solutions. He is going to make a lot of Indian young people think and observe!

    Reply
  12. ananya

    way to ruin the suspense. i was just reading the book..now i know what happens..nevertheless, good review :)

    Reply
  13. Varun

    Chetan bhagat’s books usually tend to follow a set formula. Somehow I feel his books are ‘aspirational’ in nature.

    This has also resulted in a lot of chetan bhagat clones. Take a look at this interesting and hilarious article to see what I am talking about – http://www.whackk.com/july-2010/book-wars-attack-

    *i posted this comment on another page by mistake. my bad. *

    Reply
  14. Tapu

    The book is awesome, even better than Five Point Someone. The only thing that disappoints me is that this guy Krish(or Hari) just starts falling for any girl who is pretty. Love doesn't happen like that. Is not there a difference between love and lust? Other than that, everything is fine- a simple plot with an entertaining style of representation. Plus it is affordable.

    Reply
  15. Amit Singh

    Its really agreat book.The story looks very live. And their love making and the chemistry is the great thing of this book. generally it happens that parents dont let their childrent to marry with the girl or boy of some other cast, religion or the state. They are very much orthodox. And this book shows that what is the real love.Peole can do anything to get their love.

    And i hope that Chetan will continue on writing on such books…….

    Reply
  16. JENSON

    I AGREE TO TAPU…AND MOREOVER..TWO STATES IS A KIND OF STORY WHICH INCLUDES EVERYTHING WHICH A READER WANTS TO CREATE HIS MOOD..ANYWAY I LOVE TIS BOOK..AN D I AM WANTING TO READ THE OTHER BOOKS TOO..

    Reply
  17. mohit

    It is a nice book. Chetan knows hot to convert the dramatic situation to appear as if it is going exclusive in front of one's eye by using his expert experience in the field of english. Five point someone was also an overwhelming novel.

    Reply

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