Chetan Bhagat, whose next book, Revolution 2020, hits book stands this October, speaks on corruption, coming of age as a writer and his detractors even as he lends his support to Anna Hazare at the Ramleela Maidan in New Delhi.

Your next, Revolution 2020, is particularly relevant in Anna Hazare's India. What prompted you to write it?
I started writing it two years ago, well before Anna Hazare happened. The rebellious nature of young people is something I have explored even in my earlier books. Revolution is inevitable. I am lucky that I will release the book in the middle of a revolution.

My premonition, about a major public uprise in India, came true. When I travel for my talks, I see a lot of resentment among the youth. The government is disconnected in terms of providing them a good college or a job. The book deals with corruption in the education sector. It's set in present day India and the revolution, that will change the system, will come in 2020.

You have set it in Varanasi, in small town India. Why?
I feel the voices in small town India are not heard enough. I can bring their stories alive in an interesting manner. If you switch on the TV, whatever happens in the metros is given attention. Besides, seventy percent of my readers are in small town India.

Does Varanasi become one of the characters?
I wanted to focus on up. It's the biggest state in the country and has a lot of youth. It's one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. The general perception about the city is that people go there to wash away their sins. The place is typically associated with sadhus. It's an interesting contrast because the oldest city in the country yearns for modernity.

Your settings are always off beat.
I like it that way. I have travelled to Varanasi four times for this book, met the local youth there and literally pulled young people from the streets and made them sit down and tell me about the city.

This book revolves around a love triangle between two boys and a girl. But aren't love triangles outdated?
Yes. There have been many love triangles. But what's different about this one is that everybody knows everything here. Most love stories have a lot of unspoken things among the characters. This one's much darker than what bollywood does. The girl likes both the guys. The characters are not secure about their love.  I think I have come of age. It's not a sugary sweet love story. People are thinking something and saying something else. Today it's no longer about I love you, you love me. It's about: I love you, but I also have a backup.

Would you say this is your most serious work till date?
It's more emotional and has more drama. I will never do a very serious book, unless I become that kind of a person and I don't think I am that kind of a person. I could write a serious column but never a serious book. If you're genuine, people sit up and take notice. The lightness about the book gives it a bigger reach. I don't want to be so self indulgent that I disappoint my readers. I anyway get to do serious writing, through op-eds in newspapers. I have written about corruption and boycotting Commonwealth games in these columns.

You haven't got rid of any of your superstitions. You still have numerical titles, work with the same publisher, release your book either in May or October and name your protagonist after one of the 108 names of Krishna. Will this book also be priced at the standard R 95?
I don't think so. My publisher will not be able to make a profit in that case. As for releasing my book in those two months, May is when summer vacation starts and in October, you have Dassera. People are in a mood to shop then. Including a number in the title is something even my publisher insists on.

Two of your previous books have been made into Bollywood films. Will this one follow suit?
It can make a nice film. There's a good chance. I would have a say on the director but not on the cast. Many production houses have approached me after reading the draft. There was a time when I was fascinated by Bollywood. But it's no longer a priority. I already have a readership of 1 crore and 13 lakh fans on Facebook.

Who else has read the draft?
Friends, cousins, people in the younger age group have loved it. I have got great feedback even from editors who are big critics of my work.
 
So are your detractors still going strong?
(Laughs) Oh yes. They are alive and kicking. I like people to be softer on me. But if they want to vent, it's ok. Sometimes criticism helps. I' m much more calmer about criticism now. I think people have made up their minds about me as I have been around for a while. There's a difference between opinion and bias. If you condemn anything I write, you're biased against me. The idea is to make an impact, which I do.

But not everyone reads your book because they like your work.
They may not be a fan of my writing, but of the topics I have chosen. Some people read my books because they want to know what the hype is all about. It's like an SRK film.

Would you agree that your success has given birth to a generation of amateur writers who now have the courage to get their work published and mostly centre their stories around themes associated with you: college romance, young corporate India etc?
If people try formulae, it won't work. It has to be something different. A super humble book can also create excitement. The biggest films will release in October, but people will read my book also in the same month. And that's exciting to me.

What do you read?
I like books like Freakonomics, books by Malcolm Gladwell and those on popular psychology. I have to catch up on my reading now that I am done with my book.

(Agencies)