Sunday, August 07, 2005

Kolkata Newsline - 5th Aug-2005

Alma Matter
Abbey is not Abhijit, declares the author of India’s latest alma mater novel. So will Abhijit Bhaduri be lucky with the book, or the proposed Bollywood film?
Shamik Bag
Kolkata, August 4: They went to the same school, St Xavier’s, Delhi, though Upamanyu Chatterjee was a year senior to Abhijit Bhaduri.
Years later, the two have met on common turf, as writers, and the coming of Abbey, Bhaduri’s protagonist in his debut novel, has followed the coming-of-age of English, August’s Agastya as contemporary Indo-Anglican fiction’s most sardonic and understated characters. And while Agastya took a cockeyed look at the highly-worshiped institution that is the Indian Administrative Service, Bhaduri’s Abbey harbours no romantic reverence or illusion for yet another middle-class Indian fixation: the MBA.
Bhaduri’s take on what is considered as the holiest (and most milking) cow among academic careers in India is explained from the title of the book, Mediocre But Arrogant, which also works as an acronym for the MBA profession. The name emerges from “a moment of despair of Abbey,” an MBA student of the fictional MIJ institute in Jamshedpur, when he feels that for a mediocre student like him, all the MBA stamp manages to do is to make him feel arrogant, the author explains.
Like Chatterjee, an IAS officer, Bhaduri sources his book from first-hand experience he gathered as an MBA student of the prestigious Xavier Labour Relations Institute (XLRI), Jamshedpur. Bhaduri was in Kolkata’s Oxfordbookstore on Wednesday for releasing Mediocre But Arrogant, which is the first of an intended trilogy of Abbey novels. The author is at pains to explain, “the book is not autobiographical, neither is it meant to disillusion people about MBA.” “It is intended to take a funny look at life in the ‘80s, which is when I did my course. There are about one lakh people writing the CAT exam, but not every successful manager is an MBA. It’s a myth,” says Bhaduri, who is now based as a HR professional in the US. “And it is, I reassert, not an autobiographical book.”
In Mediocre But Arrogant, published by Indialog, Abbey is a direction-less Delhi-based youngster who goes to school and college in the city, till almost fortuitously he lands up in MBA school. Through a spree of events involving professors with thick Bengali accents and thicker sense of humour, roommates like Pappu, who sleeps over the campus interview rounds, and the head of the institution who brings in a sense of profundity, the first installment of the trilogy is apt material, Bhaduri thinks, for a Bollywood film. “I’ll be meeting a few producers when I visit Bombay later this month. I think the first book is just right for turning into celluloid form and its language will be a mix of Hindi and English. In the second book, we find Abbey becoming part of the corporate world and in the final book, he finally finds his calling. These two books don’t fit into the screenplay I have worked out,” informs Bhaduri.
Even when it comes to discovering his true passion, his creation shares a common streak with the author. A stage actor, an Indian classical musician, an accomplished cartoonist who once taught the art to readers of Target magazine, a host of a show on Bollywood’s classic films and music that gets aired on the US’ Radio EBC station — Bhaduri wears many creative hats. So has he found his calling through writing the book? “I wish it paid my bills,” answers Bhaduri, “But fact is, I still earn my bread and butter from my day job. It’s only the J.K. Rowlings of the world who can do it. I hope the book will be India’s answer to....ok take that out.”
Chetan Bhagat has earlier tried it with Five Point Someone and Sandipan Deb with The IITians. Bhaduri wants to be the third time luckier.


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