It could be a little too early to predict, but Revolution 2020 may just go down as Chetan Bhagat’s best work since Five Point Someone. After that sparkling debut in 2004, to me personally his writing had gone down a notch. One night at the Call Centre (2005) had a cop-out climax while 3 Mistakes of my life (2007) had OTT sensibilities and was too ‘filmy’ for me. CB recovered ground with 2 States (2009) by picking an interesting semi auto-biographical account of his own marriage but still the narrative was teetering on melodrama at various plot-points.
R2020 is the story about three childhood friends in Varanasi — Aarthi, Raghav and the narrator, Gopal. Gopal has always loved Aarthi but following his debacle in JEE/AIEEE exams and in turn, moving to Kota for coaching, Raghav and Aarthi’s relationship blossoms. Gopal fails at the second attempt of engineering exams. Following some dramatic incidents and with the help of a local politician, he starts an engineering college of his own in Varanasi… though with corrupt money and means. Raghav meanwhile chucks his IT-BHU engineering degree to take up journalism and is hell bent on creating a revolution to root out corruption from Varanasi. What follows is an exhilarating tale of power, corruption, love and greed.
R2020 takes a contemporary issue of corruption in education, but it happens as a contrived scenario. The “revolution” happens only as an after thought and is not delved sufficiently enough to show how the change can be brought. Sure, it works at an individual level but is it sufficient at a national level? I do not think so. But the author succeeds in showing the ugly side of education in our country where colleges are now run by Sari shop owners, politicians, beedi-makers, anything but the academicians. There is also a strong undercurrent towards the apathy shown by the society towards students who are always judged by the ranks they get in the competitive exams.
At its core, the book still remains a triangular love story. The usual CB trademarks are present in this one as well: The quirky one-liners, the oblivious in-jokes, the witty conversations between the couple, the customary sex scene and the jibes at man-woman relationship.The pace is brisk, editing crisp and even though this is Bhagat’s longest book, you never feel the narrative dwindling into side-tracks and losing steam. The scenes between Gopal and Aarti are heartwarming: those coffee conversations, those boat rowing scenes near the Varanasi Ghats, those awkward pauses, they all add up in the end. Two scenes stood out for me — one in which Aarti shop around for Gopal before he leaves for Kota and another in which Aarti for the first time confessed how Gopal pushed her “too much” for a relationship. These are well thought off and executed scenes in writing where the exact emotions are unveiled for the characters.
Now it may appear i am putting the book on the pedestal which is definitely not the intention. There are certain plot points which left me unsatisfied. There is not even one confrontation scene between Aarti and Raghav, latter of which is never ready to work on the relationship in his passion for the “change” in the society. In fact, the character of Raghav gets minimum footage when it comes to the love story and to me that was the most baffling portion of the book. I also thought the earlier portions of coaching in Kota were too elaborated and did not added up to the central theme, though did added to Gopal’s woes and eventually bringing him to the lowest point in life.
I believe in the coming days, jury will be out how good or bad CB is, how his literature sucks or rocks and all that jazz. I can even see another movie made on this book. People will keep arguing about the merits of his writing. But in the end, the sales numbers are already out — more than 5 lakh copies had been pre-ordered, which is by far the highest number for any Indian author. As far as R2020 is concerned, the fans of Chetan Bhagat won’t be disappointed at all.