Ad man Kishore Manohar and writer Judy Balan teamed up to write Half Boyfriend, a parody of Half Girlfriend, by you-know-who.
What is it about Chetan Bhagat that sets him up so well for parodies?
Don’t you feel he has a strong resemblance to Rahul Gandhi?
How does an ad guy end up half-writing a book that’s a parody?
I’m an ad man, and I’m committed to selling products in an interesting manner, to people who need them but don’t know it yet — like a parody. I believe it is important for people to not take anything too seriously, except maybe that sentence, and so parodies come naturally to me. Judy Balan, on the other hand, is a serious writer with actual smarts, who had the misfortune of working for me. She eventually gave advertising (and me) the finger when she wrote her first book, which became a bestseller. Thankfully, her regard for my ability to shred anything to pieces led her talk to me about this project, and the Half Writing Duo (as we are not known as) was born.
How difficult (or easy) is it to co-write something? Who takes the final call on what stays and what goes in?
I love this question, largely because I find it so strange that people find it so strange. History has so many cases of people co-writing that you just need to Google it to find examples. I think co-writing makes life easier — it eliminates writer’s block. There’s a great built-in quality control mechanism, and it busts the stereotype of a writer in a lonely log cabin, slugging fine scotch and slogging on a rickety typewriter. It keeps the writing gender neutral — which was a learning experience for me. It also keeps the writing true, because the writer with the better idea gets to take the call on what stays. Since I don’t know any better, I strongly recommend that people on the fringe of writing a book find a fellow fringe buddy and hit the keys together. Even if it doesn’t get published, you will have a great time, and a greater story for the grandkids.
What’s your favourite passage from the book?
Being blessed with a lousy short term memory, I find a ‘funniest new passage’ every time I read. So while I was going to mention the one where Rhea is working out a bunch of half-relationships in her head, I couldn’t find it. What I did find I like, though, were the absurd Manav coincidences that one finds only in Bollywood — and in Chetan Bhagat, I guess. Of those, my favourite was the Miller, Amstel, Negra, Amstel, Vedett coincidental beer stacking order.
Who would you pick to act in a movie based on the book?
I actually think the cast of Friends would make a great match. Jennifer Aniston would play Rhea, and David Schwimmer would play Manav. Joey could do a triple role as Amar, Akbar and Anthony. Courteney Cox could be the manipulative Queen, and Matthew Perry would make a perfectly hapless Ro. And, of course, Obama could play himself, once he’s done running the USA.
If you were to parody a couple of other Chetan Bhagat books, what would they be called?
I’m done! And you must quote me! I’m already guilty of getting Judy to read parts of this Chetan Bhagat book to me, because I just could not make my way through its incredible inanity. I mean, I love the way he has made India read, and gotten lazy people like me to believe they can write, but even for a cause, writing another parody of Chetan Bhagat would be debilitating.
If Man’s World were to write a blurb for the book, what do you think it would be?
“Weird Al did it to music. The Onion did it to the news. Mel Brooks did it to the movies. And now, Judy and Kishore are doing it to books. Buy it. Read it. And think hard before you write your next one.”
Has Chetan Bhagat read Half Boyfriend, or Two Fates? If he has, what has he said?
That’s something we will never know. Rumour has it, though, that he is hiring parodists to parody the parody — and actual writers for his next novel.
If you had some advice for him, what would it be?
I’d advise him to look around and smell the coffee. I think he did a great job, becoming India’s biggest selling author, but he needs to mix it up. He should definitely aspire to be a 10, and not just a 5 Point Something. See what I did there?