The sickening political opportunism of Chetan Bhagat


Snigdha Poonam watches Kai Po Che, whose script was written by Chetan Bhagat, based on his book The Three Mistakes of My Life:

In the film adaptation, Mr. Bhagat has also added what seems like justification for some Hindus to turn violent, like the death by burning of both of the parents of one of the three protagonists in the Sabarmati Express; in the novel, it was his nephew. We all know the level of vengeance with which Bollywood heroes respond to the targeting of their mothers: “Teri maa mari hai kya (Is it your mother who has died?),” the bereaved son explodes at a sensible friend trying to stop him from losing control of himself.

In his book, Mr. Bhagat clearly showed the 2002 riots as a state-sanctioned exercise (“Whatever it takes to quench the hurt feelings,” says a “senior Hindu Party leader”). But he excised that from the film completely. [Read]

That image above is via, where an article quotes Bhagat as saying in a TV debate:

“It has been discussed much that Modi ji has done well in Gujarat, but what I believe is that he is a very good politician. A politician has to change with public mood. When communal issue mood was there in the country, that was Modi version 1, when he elected for the first time. And when he won the election for second time, he won it on development agenda.”

Clearly, Mr Chetan Bhagat is also a good politician.

33 thoughts on “The sickening political opportunism of Chetan Bhagat”

  1. I haven’t read the book, but I’d be quite astonished if it is even more damning of Modi than the film.

    The movie makes it quite clear that the riots are not “spontaneous” in any manner and the fact that the “Hindu Party” was heavily involved is in no way hidden. In fact, the movie makes it quite clear who led the rioters against the Muslim neighbourhoods. The rabidly anti-Muslim bias in the “Hindu Party” comes through far more clearly than any “anti-Hindu” bias in the “Progress Party”.

    In damning Chetan Bhagat (can’t believe I’m defending him on the interwebz!) on the basis of the movie and the book, we have to account for the fact that the book is by and large an individual piece of work but the movie is a far more collaborative effort. Whereas the book can reflect one individual’s worldview, can the movie be said to reflect the worldview of *only* one of the screenplay writers (the credits mention three others) and not say, the director as well?

    It’s perfectly fine to demand that Modi should face consequences, legal or electoral for his misdeeds, but it’s a little dangerous to allow Modi to become the spectacles through which the entire world, be it art, media and politics, is viewed by one. To damn anyone who has the least positive thing to say about Modi is no different from those who damn anyone who has the least negative thing to say about Modi.

    1. Considering that Modi is a man who wants to be the prime minister of India, with much of print and electronic media giving him far greater coverage than for any other chief minister of an Indian state, and bearing in mind too that a few respectable intellectuals have been warning of a situation akin to German of the 1930s, it is understandable that there should be much focus on exposing him and fellow-travellers.

      1. Please…anyone with any sense of balance and fair play knows that comparing Modi to Hitler is stretching things a bit too much. By the same logic, we should have said thing about Rajiv Gandhi who was equally culpable. The constant anti-Modi rhetoric is frankly silly even by Kafila standard!

        1. The kind of genocidal slogans that were raised in Gujarat 11 years ago (and recorded by numerous independent sources) remain a cause for great worry. Hitler came to power through an election.
          It is for Kafila to defend their standards but so far as I remember, they have been as scathing on the Congress party’s shenanigans too. Today’s (March 2) article by Ruchi Gupta sets out the predicament of those you might deride as “sickular” rather well.

  2. Mr. Chetan Bhagat is a former Goldman Sachs employee; obviously, corporate propagandists such as he will do what his CII and FICCI masters tell him to.

  3. I thought the movie showed the riots as caused by the young man’s politically ambitious uncle’s scheming and opportunism. It was clearly shown that the young man did not know what he was doing and his friends were not allowed to talk to him (by the same uncle). The same uncle was shown discouraging the nephew from buying property from a Muslim broker. The movie also showed how those providing aid to earthquake victims were also serving their political motives.

  4. In his interview with the Indian Express Mr Bhagat says “Nobody can deny what has happened in Gujarat. Why and how has it happened that really is an opinion. And that the film doesn’t have.”

    So very easy. The why and how of it is now merely a matter of opinion for Mr Bhagat!!!!

    All the TV footage, the eye witness accounts, testimonies of survivors, call records, judgements indicting cabinet colleagues of modi for conspiracy and direct involvement are only a matter of opinion.

    If all this, in the considered view of the learned author, is only a matter of opinion, what are the facts.

    The fact is that he is an opportunist.

  5. It is this vilification of anyone who praises Modi which has given rise to the so called ‘Internet Hindu’. Yes, you guys at Kafila have a problem with Modi and that is your opinion. Why castigate Chetan for that? Does he not have the right to hold a view? I remember the way the Media targeted Mr. Bacchan when he signed up as brand ambassador of Gujrat. There are some Modi fanboys who are intolerant and stereotypes anyone criticising modi as a congress agent, it seems Mr.Shivam Vij and his friends too are going the same way.

      1. Well, You’ll discover that if Modi comes to power people like you would be branded anti-national. No, I am not joking !

        1. in your dreams, like advani’s dream

          one thing for sure if this modi even get close to being pm, which he will never do) i’m not voting for any loksabha election ever again in my life :)

  6. I would rather give the benefit of doubt to Chetan Bhagat. May be, on receipt of more information, he changed his view. Every normal person does so. Only rigid no changers stick till death to their views, hoping that they would achieve martyrhood by dying !

    1. Line between flexibility and opportunism was always thin, Mr. Desai. Just got a little thinner in your comment.

  7. Really don’t think it’s ‘sickening opportunism’ on part of Bhagat. Since the original statement allegedly made by Modi is now, at least on the basis of evidence admitted by the Court, no more than an allegation, getting rid of that statement is no big deal.
    And, the film does have a scene in which the Muslim party leader declares that no policeman/collector is reachable, hence bringing into the factual scenario the complacency of the Gujarat government.

    To try not to make your movie political, when that is not the central issue of the movie, is not sickening opportunism.

  8. Saw the movie. Would say that it was as anti-riot as it is possible in this country. But what really sickened me was that the people in the hall were cheering when the the film was showing rioters killing and looting. Worrying sign

    1. “काइ पो छे” एकबारगी यह संदेश देती है कि यह धर्मनिरपेक्षता को मजबूत करने वाली एक महान फिल्म है। लेकिन क्या सचमुच ऐसा है? पूरी फिल्म का सबसे बड़ा “आउटपुट” अटल बिहारी वाजपेयी की तरह पाखंडी उदारवादी हिंदू नेताओं से लेकर नरेंद्र मोदी ब्रांड हिंदू राष्ट्र का सपना देखने वाले उन तमाम सीढ़ियों और खंभों की दलीलों को ही स्थापित करता है कि “हर क्रिया की प्रतिक्रिया होती है…।” इस फिल्म में एक सामान्य व्यक्ति गुजरात के दंगे देखता है, लेकिन उसे दंगों के आरोप से मुक्त कर महज एक पीड़ा का नतीजा मानने को तैयार हो जाता है। नरेंद्र मोदी के साथ फोटो नत्थी करने में मशगूल चेतन भगत ने कहानी और स्क्रिप्ट में क्यों और कितना फर्जीवाड़ा किया है, इसका खुलासा तो ही ही रहा है। लेकिन पर्दे पर मुसलिम बस्ती में कागज के लहराते पाकिस्तानी झंडे से लेकर हर मुसलमान बच्चों-बड़ों के सिर पर बेवजह टोपी आपको यह बताएंगे आप क्या सोचें…। मुसलमानों को रहना है तो उन्हें 2002 ब्रांड हिंदुओं के रहमोकरम पर रहना होगा। कहां से और किसके लिए बोल रहे हैं चेतन भगत!

      एक तरफ भय और दूसरी ओर भयादोहन का मनोविज्ञान तैयार हो रहा है। लोग इसे परदे के रास्ते अपने दिमाग में उतारें… यही मकसद है। परदे के पार देखने के लिए उन (आम) लोगों की आंखें फोड़ी जा रही हैं, सोचने के लिए दिमाग को अंधा किया जा रहा है जो पहले से ही इस तरह ग्रंथियों से भरे हुए हैं। और लोग चुपचाप इस पर ताली बजा रहे हैं, तो यह किसी भी सभ्य समाज के लिए चिंतित होने का समय है।

      काफी पहले मैंने एक तुक्का मारा था कि हाल के वर्षों में बॉलीवुड में हिंदू राष्ट्र का सपना देखने वालों ने काफी पैसा लगाया है और उसका असर फिल्मों पर साफ दिखता है, तो कुछ लोगों ने मेरे खिलाफ अभियान-सा चला दिया था। लेकिन हाल की सभी चर्चित हिंदी फिल्में देखते वक्त केवल आंखों से परदे पर नहीं, और अडोर्नो की शर्तों के साथ पीवीआर या बिग ऑडियन जैसे “उच्च सांस्कृतिकता से परिष्कृत” मल्टीप्लेक्सों में नहीं, गोलचा, रीगल या शीला जैसे सिनेमाघरों में जरा अपने आसपास को भी देखने की जरूरत है। इनमें यह बारीक खेल दिख जाएगा कि लोगों के सोचने-समझने के तरीके को कैसे तैयार किया जा रहा है। और “काइ पो छे” तो गुजरात की पृष्ठभूमि पर बनी फिल्म है… और वह भी नरेंद्र मोदी के प्रिय चेतन भगत साहब की कलम निकली कहानी से… !

  9. I read the review as questioning Development-(at any cost), a legitimate exercise given the concerns of ‘Encountering Development’,1995 and EPW, 24Sept1988++. While Development acquires hegemonic dimensions, filtering down to the public consciousness, it rarely translates into the multiple expectations(very little ‘trickle down’). The visibility of development is largely evinced by the shining middle classes (being delivered to brighter lifestyles/consumption vide their ‘own’ dint of ability’ and professional acumen).

    Meantime other classes (associated with FICCI/Assocham, Swiss a/cs) have quietly pocketed a lion’s share of the shiny stuff. In a liberal (esp Neoliberal) dispensation, a generalized demand for development (itself predicated on finance capital/FDIs) diffuses it away from the the needy and hopeful (whose expectations can then be made contingent upon cultural ‘mainlining’/centralization). Any treacle down populism becomes anachronistic as deprivational ‘class consciousness’ is deflected onto other forms and ‘facts’

    Corruption does not remain an isolated moral problem alone, the very stakes of capital today legitimize development-(as accumulation). All vie for acceptability, and to gain proximity of the developmentalist state; the degree of actual benefit/gain/mobility_ development, being directly proportional to the effusiveness with which various people profess love for state and leader

  10. To call what happened in Gujarat towards the end of February 2002 as “Riots” is a misnomer and criminally misleading.It was a massacre of the Muslims.Riots and Massacre are totally different.In riots both the sides murder each other.This has many times happened in our country where both Hindus and Muslims murder each other.Similarly it is wrong to call it “Riots” as to what happened in Delhi and some other cities after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India.towards the end of October 1984. .It was a Massacre of Sikhs.It could be called Riots only if both Sikhs and Hindus would have killed each other.Any justification of the two is hypocrisy and absolute falsehood.Both were political in their aims and ends.Incidentally those who are seeking justice for the victims through legal recourse are sidetracking the real issues.Since there was a politics in both the cases it is only through poltics any justice can be expected.No wonder Chetan Bhagat is also doing politics.Let him enjoy his right.others do have the right to expose him as worst as they can.

    1. शुक्रिया सर… मैं खुद को सही करता हूं। 2002 के गुजरात के वे दंगे नहीं, जनसंहार थे।

  11. I read this post before watching the movie, and I think it’s a bit misplaced to call it “sickening opportunism”. Changes are made from book to movie for dramatic impact. I haven’t read the book but turning the elderly couple from uncle-aunt to parents is not that big a deal. People have killed for much lesser. The movie does try to weigh on both sides, to show the helplessness of the Muslims and the administration being unreachable. In fact, I thought it categorically steered clear of having a scene where Omi’s parents are charred to death. One of the posts by Zahir Janmohamed here depicts very well what was missing in the film. Chetan Bhagat is pro-Modi. He’s been openly writing about it in the newspapers for months, but I do think that he hasn’t gone overboard with that sentiment in the movie.

  12. Ridiculous article to say the least – nit-picking over what is NOT in the movie. Neither the writer nor the director have claimed that they are making an definitive version of the 2002 riots. It is a story set in 2002, and they have a right to say it the way they want (And yes, Kafila has a right to talk about what is not in the movie and I have a right to say it that such talk is ridiculous).

    By the way, I searched for an article to check Kafila’s viewpoints on the “hurt sentiments” during Vishwaroopam row. Did not find one. Actually, had not cared about it, but searched for it anyway so that I can say “the sickening forgetfulness of Kafila”.

  13. This is an own goal for the left. The movie clearly depicts the evil of communal political parties and makes a plea for unity. Expecting a Bollywood film to take on Modi is silly. This is not a documentary. That it brings up the riots, which the masses would prefer to forget is in itself a radical act. My respect for Mr Bhagat has gone up, I didn’t think he dealt with such serious issues in the first place. I will read that book now.

    1. Forgiving Bollywood every single time for its superficiality is even sillier. Not to mention that every now and then, movies will be made that will buck the trend – Chak de for instance combined a “plea for unity” with a strong statement against stereotyping of Muslims, all within the framework of popular cinema. Do you even understand what criticism is about, Laxmi? It doesn’t require a gate pass or a certificate from boundary keepers like you. All it needs is to add something valuable to our thinking, tell us something new about ourselves as a society.

  14. Well for starters, a screenplay and a novel are very diffrent and adaptations need not be an exact copy of the novel….the movie is not about the gujarat riots per se, a job which has been done by flicks like parzania and many other excellent movies…it is a tale of three friends and how their bond evolves even as the state they stay in undergoes massive social and political upheavel….I felt that the uncle was potrayed as the villain in the tale and no where felt that it was defending a criminal like modi…the fight against modi must be fought in the courts and in the electoral field to ensure that that man never becomes pm, seeing a pol agenda in even a simple movie like Kai po che does not help in the cause and gives modi and his ilk another oppurtunity to cry driscimination and supposed vicitimhood…

  15. It was meant to be a movie not a documentary. Which filmmaker would want his film being taken out of cinema halls and banned due to a controversy(like Vishwaroopam) ? And frankly film was critical at places of Right wing Hindu parties.

  16. Its unfortunate to see that smart and intellectual people like Chetan Bhagat are also falling prey to this Marketing & PR campaign of Narendra Modi . We have to give it to Modi and his crack team for their marketing work . But i expected Chetan Bhagat to be better informed . Chetan please go and have a look at the article published by ET on 1st July “What works and what doesn’t in Narendra Modi’s Gujarat” . This will open your eyes and help you realise the reality. Leaving the propaganda and the hype ,that has been created by so called development focused CM, aside . So far only 10% of the promised projects and investment have actually taken place in Gujarat . In his vibrant Gujarat investment summit propaganda Modi talks of big number like 39.6lac crore investment , but how much will come through is yet to be seen . Please look at growth rate of Gujarat prior to Modi and after Modi to see what actually he has contributed to Gujarat’s growth . While you are looking at growth numbers look at human development index also. For Modi’s corruption track record please see the CAG report that has been tabled in Gujarat assembly . There is 16k crore worth of scam uncovered by CAG . This report has come out when Modi with all his might is busy suppressing all information ( ref No of RTI applications pending ) Once he moves out of Gujarat all skeletons will come out of closet . There are number of voices highlighting favoritism in assigning contract and lands to industrialists. Tax holidays for 20 years , subsidized cost for land and Gas. Should’t a private company pay for utilizing our natural resources ( BJP argument in 2g case ) and why should they enjoy tax holidays ?? I hope Chetan will come up with a follow up article in light of all of these facts . Otherwise unless he has also joined the PR & Marketing team of Mr Modi . as far as my vote is concerned for ur survey We definitely dont need Autocratic , corrupt & bool stained hands to lead India . But i will be delighted if he comes as a PM candidate for BJP in 2014 elections . It will be so much easier for congress to muster support . But its to early to say that ,probably 1st modi needs to do some PR exercise within his own party . There are so many people in NDA against him .

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