One often hears that today’s young generation- hooked on to reality shows on the telly, glitzy malls and frequent parties, does not have time to read fiction.
A new crop of writers in India is churning out books by the dozen – and they are selling well too. So who’s buying them? Lonely hearts who have started believing in the adage, ‘When you have no one, make books your best friend’? Or those who want to display an intellectual bent of mind? The truth perhaps lies somewhere in between.
It would perhaps be relevant to check out what kind of books are in demand. The hot selling ones emphasise on youth and romantic plots. Then there are the ‘chick-lit’ books with romance and glamour at the core, quite popular among young women.
Most of the books in these genres target young male/female in their twenties and thirties with plots of love, sex and struggle for professional success. Authors like Durjoy Datta, Novoneel Chakraborty, Sachin Garg, Nikita Singh, Ravinder Singh, Preeti Shenoy, Animesh Verma, to name a few, have come out with such kind of books and almost all are bestsellers.
These writers neither belong to the genre of Chetan Bhagat, nor to that of Amitav Ghosh or Amit Choudhuri, but they have created their own style and have won millions of fans with their writing pattern. Many youngsters, who believe they can relate to their books, ensure their popularity.
“The titles of their books attract young people,” says Uday Goswami who has a bookstore in College Street, Kolkata, adding, “They mostly use colloquial language making it familiar to the readers.” For eg; titles like, ‘Oh Shit, Not Again’ by Mandar Kokate. The young generation use this kind of language and finds it ‘with-it’.
Another attraction is the emphasis on contemporary issues but with ‘light’ plots that are not too cerebral. And then there is this convenience of being able to kill time while waiting for someone, or travelling in a bus. The affordable price is another bonus. Being slim is a plus point too. The novels come in easy-to-carry volumes and they can be finished within a few hours. “I was travelling for 34 hours with no electronic gadgets to entertain me except the phone; but I could hardly use it due to the lack of battery charging facility. My co-passengers were not very friendly either. So when the train halted at a station I purchased a few books and I must admit, I couldn’t have passed my time better,” remembers Sagarnil Dhar, who is pursuing chartered accountancy.
Readers in the age-group of 15-25 are the major consumers of the ‘fast-finish’ books. They feel that the books depict very similar experiences that they face in real life. During college days, the hot topics that preoccupy college canteens hover around love; it can be either about falling in love with the best buddy’s girlfriend or all friends wanting to date the same much-admired girl.
“This generation is quite smart too,” says Noel Michael who works at a popular bookstore in Kolkata, adding, “They take the help of the romantic books to express their feelings by gifting novels like ‘Anything for You Ma'am’, by Tushar Raheja.” He reveals that the store sells almost 30 to 40 books a day of writers like Durjoy Datta, Novoneel Chakraborty and Ravinder Singh.
Datta, who has written six best sellers with titles like ,‘Of Course I Love You!’ , ‘Ohh Yes, I Am Single!’ etc. has a tremendous fan following and says that he writes about life as encountered with his milieu. “I try to write stories about things around me and I really don't know what genre it comes under. Very crudely put, they are love stories, but I would like to think there is more to my books than just a basic love story,” he says.
The authors also try to focus on issues other than just love angles. For example, Preeti Shenoy’s, ‘Life Is What You Make It’ talks about a bipolar disease by keeping the love as backdrop to the story.
But there are book lovers who are not at all interested in books of this page –turners.
Shilpi Biswas, a commerce student and voracious reader, says, “Yes, the books are popular but to some extent the popularity will cease after the readers get mature. For eg; If I read ‘A Roller Coaster Ride’ during my college days; I will relate to the subject then, but after few years it may seem foolish to me. During college days nobody thinks about the cause and affect, they just like to flow with it, but later when they get to deal with reality they are somehow forced to think about the consequences.”
This book is about an IIT guy with a lover-boy image. Online dating is his forte. After life makes a few wake up calls, he tries to change.
Yet, there are also those who read just for encountering the characters who enliven the stories. Like Debolina Das who works in a corporate house. “I do like to explore lives of different people and how they conduct themselves. Each person has a different tale that can be of interest.”
What is the future of these quick read books? Will they survive, say, after ten years? “It’s difficult to predict. We can always hope for the best. Personally, I believe good storytelling never takes a back seat; irrespective of the genre,” says Chakroborty writer of books like, ‘A thing beyond forever’, ‘That kiss in the rain’, ‘How about a sin tonight?’
The chick-lit novels mainly focus on the glamorous side of a story.
“It’s best for the teens because it has romance, sex and relationship element,” believes Priyam Mallick, a media professional.
But she also warns that “These novels sometimes create a negative impact on the teens’ mind since they start believing in that fantasy of a good life and fail to differentiate between the story and real life.”
Avid reader Labanya Datta dismisses the chick-lit genre by saying “I don’t really like chick-lit because I find their wafer thin plots uninteresting. Besides, they aren’t good from the language point of view. They are popular possibly because they are easy to read and glamour oriented.” (TWF)