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::: Dil Chahta Hai Reloaded :::
Jun 12, 2004 06:48 AM 25536 Views
(Updated Jun 12, 2004 07:25 AM)



IIT - Indian Institute of Torture.

It's funny how so-called campus flicks are dished out by Bollywood by the dozen. We have Sunny Deol and Akshay Kumar playing collegians and of course, principals who wear Superman ties and read Rowling instead of performing other duties. It's funny how no film, apart from Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikandar, has even come close to depicting the life of Indian teenagers. What a film hasn't been able to do - Chetan Bhagat's first literary effort has.

The poster for the highly publicized Five Point Someone screamed 'The lives of three IITians' - a paradox in itself, as I cannot imagine an IITian having a life apart from quantum physics, applied mechanics and other terms which are even scarier than Tusshar Kapoor dancing with snakes for company. However, Five Point Someone is an amazingly realistic account of the life of any collegian.


Meet Hari. Our Indianised version of Harry bumped (literally) into Sally aka Neha. Their unique relationship is one of the major threads of the book, as Neha turns out to be Prof. Cherian's daughter. Papa Cherian is the kind of fellow you wouldn't fancy meeting in the dark, with his reputation of being a strict disciplinarian.

Meet Ryan. The proverbial cool dude, with a physique to kill for and exceptional brains, which would have the best of scientists scurrying for cover. The most interesting character of the story, Ryan is a gold mine of talent and could have made it big in life, but he choses not to ? and he takes a strange pride in it. (This sentence was courtesy Mandy's profile!)

The other extreme of Ryan is Alok, who has his responsibilities towards his families crushing his temptation to make merriment a la Hari and Ryan.


It's amazing how one identifies with almost each and every situation and character in the book. Hari is the simplest character in the book, representing every average teenager. A guy of simple desires, who fervently wants to live like the one he admires, a guy who wants to go all out to impress his lady love, a guy who gives into the temptation of cheating in his exam, merely to impress her.

The book is written with Hari as the first person and a unique aspect is how his interpretation of different characters changes with time. His observations are witty, be they his frustrations at the fact that Ryan and Alok are constantly squabbling, or his complaints about how deciphering the female psyche is even more difficult than the course at IIT.

While on the female psyche, Neha remains a special character in the book due to the fact, that although she is not one of the three friends, it is she, who indirectly causes all the major events in the story. Even her gradual realisation of how close she is to Hari is subtlely portrayed through her letters to her dead brother. In the case of the dead brother, lies another track, which effortlessly merges into the main story. Apart from lending a push to the story, her brother Samir represents a stark fact - the drastic steps which many students take due to parental pressures.

The kind of aura Ryan generates around himself rubs onto the others and especially Hari, who admires him to the core. Unabashedly, he admits that what he wants most is to be Ryan - a very symbolic statement, as we often admire the seemingly better attitudes of some our peers. Often, one feels that Ryan is too heartless to be true, as he pretends to not care for his parents. The transformation of the high-handed, self-centred Ryan into somebody who becomes more sensitive to his friends and more aware of his responsibilities is brilliantly portrayed by the author.

Apart from the exterior facade of not giving in to emotions easily, Ryan symbolizes the maverick as he continues to lament against the cruel system prevalent in IIT and most other colleges wherein an individual is identified by the number of marks he obtains in a particular test. That is precisely the point that Five Point Someone drives home eventually - life isn't merely marks. The climax is yet another high point - how Cherian breaks down in front of the entire college ... or does he?

Alok represents the many who enter the sciences purely to get a job which pays well, not because they lust for money, but because they struggle for survival. With a paralysed father and an unmarried sister, his shoulders carry the weight of not only his future, but also his family's, and with friends whose priorities are starkly different, Alok's character is tested. In a peculiar way, Alok represents the true friendship shared by the three. A clash in egos and goals forces him to part ways with Ryan and Hari, but he returns, as the trio have a roaring reunion.

I never thought it would be possible, but the bond shared between the three in this book is reminiscent of Dil Chahta Hai, and that is probably the greatest compliment I can give to any book or movie!

Apart from the trio and the damsel, the two teachers with contrasting personalities are a highlight of the book. While Cherian is every student's nightmare, the way his character culminates is that of a resigned father, who realises that his obsession with his institution ruined his son's life. On the other hand, Prof. Veera is every student's delight, a teacher who encourages new ideas, who does not believe in the stereotype, and one who believes in befriending his students.

Yes, Chetan Bhagat addresses a number of serious issues, the exaggerated importance of academic excellence, a child's relationship with his parents, how a relationship is differently viewed at by the different genders and most importantly, the highs and lows of true friendship. Yet, not even a single line of the book will allow you to take your eyes off the page as the writers maintains an informal freewheeling style, replete with great humour. The only times you might look up from the book would be when a number of incidents would remind you of your school and college years. Be warned, there would be occasions when the witty sarcasm in the friends' dialogues or the sheer hilarity in a number of situations threaten to give you the fatal disease called Kuru i.e. laughing sickness.

A breezy read at 270 pages and a grab at merely Rs. 95 /-, Chetan Bhagat's Five Point Someone is highly recommended to anyone between the age bracket of 15 to 25, er, make that 15 to 75, if you drink Pepsi and have not grown up!


An added note - the title refers to the trio's below-average GPAs (grades). And it also means that each of you can post at least five comments each!

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Five Point Someone - Chetan Bhagat