Thursday, January 31, 2013

Insider Look at Indian Publishing: Beaten by Bhagath! ( S V Divvaakar)



Beaten by Bhagath! claims to be the first-ever tale about the unseen side of the wonderland of Indian Fiction. That was the hook for me to say YES – to an offer from BookVault to review this book. I mean, hey! this was a behind-the-scenes look at the Publishing industry from someone who’s been there, done that and is willing to lay bare the ugly truths and bust some myths. So bring it on, huh? I was ready to lap it up – that small worm inside of me delighting at such an opportunity to learn more of this industry I was trying to break into. 

 This isn’t a debut and definitely reads like a polished effort from a talented author.  S V Divaakar is a multi-talented personality currently having forayed into Writing and Public Speaking and music forms a large wedge in the circle of his life.


The tag-line, “A tale of two writers” succinctly sums up the whole book – even though it’s written from a first-person narrative, the whole book centering around the efforts of BB, a successful corporate executive who decides to pursue writing when egged on by his boss and driven by a king-size ego to beat his former college-mate, Dr. Bhagath who is now one of India’s most successful writers of all times  - there are two different personalities here, one the fledgeling author fuelled on by his own ego and testosterone driven by chanel 5 perfume – and looming large over him, the shadow of this over-achieving college-mate, the  uber-cool successful storywriter who has brought a revolution in writing by putting his hands on the pulse of his audience and writing for them. It’s a gargantuan task for BB and he squares up admirably for it – launching full-fledged into the process and taking the hard-as-nails publishing industry head-on.  Does he live up to the promise and his own expectations, does he finally beat Dr. Bhagath – forms the crux of the story. The story weaves together in lush detail the hitherto unknown and painful process of how one goes from a raw manuscript to seeing your book in glossy print and gives us insights on the torrid efforts involved in making sure that baby doesn’t sink and disappear.

The verdict? I loved the book in bits and pieces. It was a fantastic narrative and follows the debut author’s ups and downs in one of the most authentic take on this harrowed journey, a rat-race to beat the best and enter the hallowed list of Bestseller books. Being inside BB’s head as he suffers through all the lows in this entire journey and gloats and exults over his small wins really helped us get a grip and thorough understanding of publishing as a process.  BB serves as an excellent foil to give us a ring-side view of this brutal cage-fight as he gets pummeled and bruised in an effort to keep his debut book afloat in the market. The prose is smooth and confident, peppered with hilarious anecdotes and smart thought-provoking insights – takeaways from this are fantastic and worth gold nuggets for newbie debut authors in the same boat as BB. What to do and more importantly what NOT to do.

Another winner for me was that the author keeps it straight as an arrow – a simple premise presented beautifully in linear fashion without going over the top.  This is going to be a great connect to the readers in addition to be able to identify with the middle-aged three-dimensional real life-and-blood protagonist, BB. The author keeps the tone light and irreverent for most of parts of the book – what with a controversial title that takes potshots at Chetan Bhagat and tongue-firmly-in-cheek references to celebrities in India – Shaamil Khan, K-10 Bhagath, Nileshi who seems to have taken the Indian science-fiction by storm( ahem. Yes, the third book is out in that trilogy for this guy, huh?) e-talier Companies like ClickMart, Book retailers like CrossBow  and many more funny intentionally lightly-veiled references  to real-life people and establishments – A lot of times this book gets you laughing out loud.

What irked me (other than the tepid climax that was disjointed and jarring to the tone and premise of the entire book) was the fact that frequently the line between telling a story and sermonizing about lessons learnt during the publishing process, blurred a bit. Now I would hate it if the author talks directly to me and gives me smart-ass comments. Instead if it were BB stuck in his tireless self-reprimanding tirades sifting for lessons learnt from his mis-adventures, then it would have gone well.  But it kept switching at some points and that really did douse down my enthusiasm. 
The reason that propelled BB into writing – was something I would NEVER have agreed with. To show that he is better than his college-friend Ketan? To impress his lady boss whose sweat-laden armpits mixed with chanel 5 perfume turned him on? Please give me a break. I don’t think anybody would chase down dreams propelled by reasons like this. That was a little bit of an over-sell for me. Never bought that part.

But overall Beaten by Bhagath! is an easy read – Super fun in fact, to watch BB chase his writing dreams, share the anguish during those nose-dives into the stygian depths of soul-searching exercises and exult with him over every small wins. The whole journey though has been very fantastically laid out – the hilarious book release, the facebook experiments, the rip-off – all are incidents we can relate to very well.  BB has this aura of vulnerability which I can relate to. Driven to desperate measures to see his baby do well in the market, estranging himself from friends and family over a cause he believed in…Haven’t we all done that one time or the other? And that is what elevates the book from the ordinary.

S V Divvaakar claimed to and has given us – the ring-side view of an industry we know little or nothing about. For that I am thankful. It’s a good book and I wish to see more from this multi-faceted author. Perhaps now the music industry? Or maybe the movies? Am sure that would be as definitive as this work.

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