What makes Indian popular fiction famous and well-received among young readers? An inquiry into genre fiction
It has not been many decades… living. However, by reading books, I have been successful in gathering fair information on how people used to live when there were no electricity, transportation sources or, the most important thing, the internet. Do you see? Books are very useful! I have collected much valuable information just by sitting on my reading chair and reading books. I collect books. I read them. I share whatever I gather on India Book Club (an online book club that you can also join for free and start sharing what you love with other readers there). Well, why am I sharing all that? The title says something else… why are certain books popular? I mean seriously; ask anyone to name 5 famous authors in India right now and you will get names like Chetan Bhagat, Amish Tripathi, Ashwin Sanghi, Arundhati Roy, Durjoy Datta and a few others… you will seldom hear names like Amitav Ghosh, Jeet Thayil, Amitav Kumar, Anita Nair, Kiran Desai… well, a few of them are not Indian citizens legally. Who cares?
My point is that the authors of secondary rank or even lower are doing something extraordinary and that’s why readers, especially the youths and just-adults, like them. What do they do? What do these popular authors do those so-called literary authors or traditional authors cannot do? Can you guess? I will give my opinion on this and you can share yours in the comments if you feel like talking. I will keep a watch over the comment section.
Why are popular fiction writers famous?
Reason 1: Popular fiction, often called genre fiction by academics but who cares, is famous… as the name suggests. Well, the first thing that I can observe as soon as I start reading something from popular fiction is a little better than the average language used by the author. You can literally connect with the language used by the writers because they keep things very simple. Hell, fuck, dude, come on, cheap, slut, dumb, dumbo, yeah, sucker… and so many other words that we sometimes avoid in our conversation as well… these are the things that make these books famous among young readers. They find their language in the books by contemporary writers. They miss it in the works written by those sitting on the elite horses with wings (we cannot see).
Reason 2: Everybody’s story is the second thing I can guess that makes these ‘cheaper’ novels connect with the readers more than ‘costlier’ novels may ever do. In Chetan Bhagat’s novels, you will find guys working in call centres, just in the USA and private banking but with common thoughts in the mind, GF-BF bullshit, thinking about sex all the time, making more money and still wanting more, doing things teenagers and young people want to do… and so on. They are not scholars or successful businessmen by default. They are not poets or philosophers like you might have found in the novels that elite authors blindly follow. And they have lesser things to do with propaganda like you will find in the novels by a few Indian authors – partition trauma, community tensions, social signatures and so on… characters in popular fiction are chill… smoking weed and making love, conjuring up a world that people in their 20s and teens want to have.
Reason 3: Yes, sex in the text. You will find condoms in the pocket. Lust in the words. Sex on the pages. That’s common. Not all the time though. It does attract teenagers and early 20s readers.
Reason 4: Discovering amazing things, getting into the past, demons, Gods and something that’s just wild… These are some of the signatures moves that contemporary and popular authors make. You may already be thinking about the novels by Amish Tripathi and Ashwin Sanghi. You should. You can also think about the non-fiction books by Anuj Dhar. He is equally popular.
Reason 5: The most important one – COST. Yes, that matters a lot! You should already have noticed by now. You will find the cost of the novels by ‘senior’ or award-winning novelists too much and not every reader can afford them conveniently. Chetan Bhagat’s can be bought on the footpath or on red lights, cheaper… popular fiction can be arranged with a month’s pocket money. Elite fiction cannot be bought by heart by young readers. Popular fiction are casual expenses and elite fiction are always about hard-earned money.
Do these reasons ring any bell? You can share yours and I am looking for it.
Written by Nakshatra for Desi Readers
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