26 May 2008

Book review: Three Mistakes Of My Life

Author: Chetan Bhagat
Price: Rs 95
Publishers: Rupa
Published in 2008


The best selling feature of a Chetan Bhagat book is its readability. In a world where one is constantly striving to find time, it truly matters when you can actually finish reading a book within a couple of hours. Also, when he isn't getting too filmy and over-the-top, Chetan actually manages to hold a story well enough. That was evident with both Five Point Someone and One Night At A Call Centre. The former especially works as an excellent satire on the education system I thought.

Chetan's third book, the just-launched Three Mistakes Of My Life starts off in the same effective manner as his earlier two books, but unlike the other two, this one starts to appear too far-fetched towards the middle and then just irrevocably falls apart in the end.

The story recounts the life of three youths, Omi, Ishaan and Govind trying to make a life staying in small-town Gujarat. Given Govind's business acumen and Ishaan's love for cricket, the youngsters decide to open a shop that sells cricket goods. Omi's family helps them to get a rented place outside a temple, and soon enough the place is a hit with the locals. Chetan's biggest strength as a writer is his ability to create interesting settings and situations.

Moving on, Ishan takes a great liking to one of the local Muslim boys, Ali with a magical ability to smash the ball for a six each time. Living with the regret of making it himself, Ishan decides to train the 12-year old. Strangely, the lad himself is least interested in cricket but Ishan and his friends take it upon themselves to not only train him for free, but even endure great pains to take him all the way to Sydney at the suggestion of one of the Australian players. There, Ali is offered a contract on the condition that he become an Australian national only to have the 12-year-old spout dramatic lines such as, 'Does that mean I cannot play for India?! Then I don't want it!' and walk away.

This is where the novel begins to disintegrate and goes on to become embarrasingly over-the-top and melodramatic. As long as the author only incorporates the Gujarat earthquake and how it brings down the hopes of one of the novel's lead character, Govind -- Chetan's attempt at infusing a natural disaster with the personal is acceptable. But it's hardly likely that both the Godhra episode and the following riots would again have a direct bearing on these very characters.

The last few chapters especially go out of hand. One knows Chetan's a big fan of Bollywood and believes that much like a Hindi film that must have action in the end, a novel too must have its share of blood and gore to make it wholesome enough. First of all, Bollywood itself is moving away from formulaic fares so Chetan's jumped in a bit late here. Secondly, there is no emotional resonance or reasoning to any of the violence that takes place in the temple, with the Hindus trying to attack Ali with Ishan and others trying to save him.
It's never clear why these youths are fussing over Ali so much. There's only one explanation given - that he's gifted. Why would anyone in their right mind take him all the way to Australia or give up their life (yes, one of the youngsters dies trying to protect the boy!) to preserve his talent. None of their sympathies for him are based on the fact that he's a Muslim, nor do they save him out of any moral obligation apart from the fact that he is a potential cricketing great! Chetan's intentions are honourable but his notions of nationalism and patriotism are just too naive and simplistic.

In between, there's a love story thrown in between Govind and Ishan's sister, only to have Omi spout cheesy lines like, 'You can't hit on your friend's sister, that's an unwritten rule' etc.

Honesty, I wanted to like this book. It begins well, it’s setting is nice and it truly attempts to give the reader a slice of small-town India. Too bad, the book goes nowhere with it.

-Sandhya Iyer

19 comments:

pranab said...

Hi!!! I am pranab mukherjee i have also finished the three mistakes of life.I very much agree with you really the last part of the story is turned around to be more commercial i.e. like more of a hindi film story. especially the ending.Any how can't tell a must read but can be tried once.

Thanks

siddharth said...

i did not like the book at all...i think the whole book is commercial, not just the last part...it lacks in research of any kind...om's character is not developed at all, so one feels no sorrow when he dies...it is also rather obvious that bhagat does not watch cricket

sa.na. kannan said...

hey, nice to read ur book reviews, mostly by indian authors. i agree most of ur views abt this chetan bhagat's book.. but u r questioning 3 freinds for saving ali's life which i think is not fair. dont u save ur friend that too if hes a kid. again, its an intersting blog and im gng to read all ur posts. all the best.

Gumps said...

hiiiiii......im upender from jaipur...i read 3 mistake.....its really a blasting xperience 4 me...i like it

Nisha said...

hi....i m nisha...d book is really good..bt its little bit messy.........little bit confusing 2..........

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Anonymous said...

My first and the best ever read novel

Anonymous said...

The story iz complicated fr those people who hv never been in habit of reading such beautiful emotional buks.............i liked d story very very much............even waiting fr d movie based on it..........kai po che!!!!!!!!!!

Nonit Choudhary said...

Even kai po che is the same. but the one who has read the book and remembers the story, then only he'll understand the movie, because, the movie is made in a "shortcut" way. The screen adaptation is done cleverly. Story runs fast and no specific background for a particular character or situation. and about the last part, i haven't read the book fully (only reached half the pages) but yeah the one youngster ISHAAN, who dies in the end, its very bad. and sad too ! that should have been ignored.
Overall book is good.! A worth reading !

Rohit Thomas said...

Hmmm When one wonders why such cliches in Hindi movies sells, books in similar lines, to script more movies, surely is bound to hit big !!! After all they unfortunately cater the spicy tastes of a good majority for certain . .
Its just the ones with a sour tongue that have to be contend with the least in the contents . .
But that said, Kai Po Che certainly is a lil relief from the usual !@#$%^&* that hits the screens week in week out . .

With the Oscars over, trend tends to peep into the English territory only to wonder what hit them i guess, such sweet spot in taste isn't really that well defined in this majority . . But can't help wonder the difference in class and standard of the same, which surely will be understood by those who have long been tasting such great servings !!!
THat brings such few ones to ponder if ever Hindi movies will grow up, especially when even the ones they send for the Oscar entry itself describes shamelessness !!!! Not to mention the unfair treatment to many a brilliant regional movie in Bengali, Marathi, Malayalam which could at least stand in the list of the class of foreign ones . .

Agree with your review on the book, though only browsed through it :P
Yes, I'm not that much of a fiction reader nowadays too :)
Anyways Thanks . .

Smita Dhall said...

The review is very apt. I haven't read the book but just saw the movie. It just get unnecessarily heady towards the end.

My sole question is - what are the THREE MISTAKES if to be defined clearly?

Anonymous said...

1. Buying the shop in the mall which they knew they could not afford.
2. Sleeping with Vidya
3. The third one wasn't shown in the movie. Its related to Ali.. Read the book for that one :P

Shelly said...

I loved to read famous authors books and Chetan Bhagat is my favorite one..I like this book a lot!!

Anonymous said...

I like the book.

Anonymous said...

It love this book.

Anonymous said...

i like the book. But i too agree with your review. it's quiet lagging in middle.

abhishek mishra said...

Hey , i read the book , its fab,
The only unlikely thing is that i just read till 2 mistakes,
Pls , can someone pls tell me about the third mistake and ending?
I gave the book back to my friend from whom i borrowed.....

Neha Sharma said...

worth reading...ausum book..has everything for the youth to be interested to read it...:)Cricket,Politics,Love.Passions,Dreams,Friendship and lots mote...there are lots of twists and turns...boys will love the matters of the cricket...and for every reader may it be a boy or girl...they will love every bit of the book..:)