With the forthcoming release of Kai Po Che, based on Chetan Bhagat’s book The 3 Mistakes of My Life, the 39-year-old Indian writer, columnist and motivational speaker is in the news again.
It was the phenomenal success of the 2009 film 3 Idiots that focused the world’s attention on Bhagat. Loosely based on his book Five Point Someone, the comedy--drama became the highest--grossing Bollywood film of all time in India, with considerable success abroad. It grossed more than Dh92 million at the box office and won 16 International Indian Film Academy awards, 10 Star Screen awards and six Filmfare awards.
That same year, Bhagat left his day job as a banker to write full-time. He now has five best-selling books under his belt, has been dubbed by The New York Times as “the biggest selling English-language novelist in India’s history” and by Time magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.
More than just a celebrated author, Bhagat writes and speaks about the issues that are close to his heart, and which are often the subjects of his books: national development and youth empowerment.
“What I write seems to resonates with the middle class in India,” explains Bhagat. “They enjoy reading stories and watching films they can connect to.”
On Thursday, a second film based on one of Bhagat’s books will be released. Kai Po Che is “the story of three boys who don’t have much going on and decide to offer coaching classes in cricket”, says Bhagat. “Through a turn of events, they get caught up in committing violence in the city.”
The phrase Kai Po Che, which translates to “I have cut”, is a victory chant associated with kite-flying, a popular sport in Gujarat. It is this sentiment that binds together the three protagonists, Ishaan, Omi and Govind, who go from starry-eyed ambition to cut-throat competition. The three mistakes referred to in the title are the ones Govind makes along the way.
While 3 Idiots managed to pull together a formidable star cast including Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor, Kai Po Che features new faces. “Nobody expected 3 Idiots to be such a big hit,” says Bhagat. “It was a movie about three boys in a hostel, not a Bollywood love story at all. But it really connected with people somewhere. The hopes from Kai Po Che are similar. This one doesn’t have a big star cast, but I hope people won’t judge the film on this.”
Bhagat recalls how Kapoor, the director, approached him for the film: “He had already worked with [the actor] Farhan Akhtar on the film Rock On, which also was about friendship and struggle. He had read the book, fallen in love with it, and wanted to make it into a movie.”
As one of the four screenplay writers for Kai Po Che, Bhagat was closely involved in adapting the book for the big screen and says it is fairly faithful. “People do make comparisons between the book and the film,” admits Bhagat. “It is difficult for a filmmaker. But there are several films that do justice to the books they were based on: The Godfather and Gone with the Wind, for examples. I think Kai Po Che does justice to the book. It’s looking really good.”
While he waits for Kai Po Che to be released, Bhagat has started on another screenplay – this time, he’ll be working with top-billed names: the actor Salman Khan and the producer Sajid Nadiadwala.