Novel readership in India is on an all-time high in the present times. The circulation of novels is gradually increasing by leaps and bounds across the length and breadth of the country. The major credit of this remarkable inclination towards English language novels can be attributed to the popularity and prominence of the cult of campus novels. Although the popularity of campus novels dates back to the Inscrutable Americans by Anurag Mathur, it is the phenomenal success of Chetan Bhagat’s debut novel, Five Point Someone that is credited with the revival of popular readership in India. Shortly after its release, it became a bestseller with over 50,000 copies sold and created a nationwide range among youngsters.
The Five-Point-Someone-fever managed to create a strong foothold among a generation of youngsters, which had almost abandoned interest in novels and books. A highly technocratic generation that could hardly spare a minute off their mobile phones, television sets and laptops was rendered awestruck by the mere simplicity, effortless emotional connectivity and easy-to-understand language of this IIT-based campus novel. Almost every teenage youngster in the country couldn’t help voicing out his admiration for Ryan, Hari and Alok, the then heartthrobs of the contemporary popular Indian literature.
The success of Chetan Bhagat’s debut novel paved way for an era of popular English Literature dominated by campus-based novels. Soon afterwards, the campuses of some of the most renowned universities and colleges of India such as IITs, IIMs, JNU began being featured in the pages of the upcoming novels. The cult of campus novels also brought into limelight, the cult of passionate readers-turned-writers. Following the footsteps of Bhagat, several other aspirants donned the hats of popular fiction writers and unleashed their potential by creating campus-based stories. A few prominent works worthy of mention include ‘Something of a MockTale’ by Soma Das, ‘Above Average’ by Amitabha Bagchi, ‘You Desire: A Journey Throug IIM’ by Harishdeep Jolly, ‘The Funda of Mix-ology’ by Mainak Dhar.
These works targeted youth and college-goers and came up with fresh subjects that revolved around the glitzy college life that included campus love-affairs, student politics, joys and sorrows of friendship, drug and booze sessions, examination phobias, placement dreams, monotony of classroom studies and likewise. These presented a detailed anatomy of college-life and its share of up-and-downs reviewed by the author’s point of view. The massive readership drawn to these campus-based novels is thus, based on its target audience’s strong inclination to relive the adventures of college-life in the pages of literature!
Another factor that is responsible for the burgeoning popularity of such novels is the use of colloquial English by their writers. Young readers freshly out of schools, or college-goers find it easy to connect, sans the usual intricacies of highly flowery language as used by other prose writers. This is primarily the reason why eminent Indian English writers such as the likes of Arundhati Rai, Shashi Deshpande, Vikram Seth, Sulman Rushdie, or Shobha De fail to strike a rapport with the young Indian readers.
All said and done, seeing the exponential popularity and prominence of campus novels in the present scenario, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that they indeed have a bright future ahead. We certainly look forward to a lot more from Chetan Bhagat and his brigade!