After the first publication by Bhagat, this was the novel that prepared the base for his instant launch in the world of Indian English fiction. Two States is primarily a love story with some extra ingredients that have been attracting readers of young age until now. However, it is not a simple love story that you read every day. Chetan Bhagat’s Two States, the story of my marriage attempts to portray a modern love story set against the backdrop of cultural differences in India. Two people from two distant states of the country with subtle and visible differences in their lifestyle and everything else somehow come together to form a very distinct relationship that leads to an incredible marriage. The novel became very popular among young readers instantly after the launch (aided by a vehement marketing drive by the author). However, despite its popularity, the novel falls short in terms of writing style and overall literary merit. In this review, I will put everything about the book and its content. Let’s begin the review!
The story of the novel in a nutshell:
The story, if you observe carefully, is linear and simple. The novel discusses the story of Krish, a spirited Punjabi lad, and Ananya, a vibrant Tamilian girl, who embark on a tumultuous journey of love amidst the clash of their diverse cultural backgrounds. Though this clash is largely because of their families, their upbringing and social backgrounds also come into play. As they navigate the hurdles of societal expectations and familial resistance, their bond grows stronger, fuelled by their unwavering commitment to bridging the gap between their communities. The story is tilted towards a rather humorous description of events that will amuse many readers. And thus, through vivid anecdotes, humorous encounters, and heartfelt emotions, Bhagat explores the complexities of intercultural relationships. The story has its communication in the simplicity that it offers. However, this simplicity, most of the time, betrays readers who want something extra rather than plain storytelling when they read a novel.
Except for the fact that the novel is a simple read, a mono-layered, straightforward tale of a love marriage that does not fail despite so many hurdles, there is nothing more that adds to its value. Albeit, there are many things in the novel by Bhagat that call for critical scrutiny eliciting the downsides or the negatives that expose the author’s literary prowess. Let me discuss these things in detail. Well, if you are wondering why is the author so popular despite his works having too little value in terms of literary merits, you may be interested in reading this helpful analysis – Why is Chetan Bhagat Popular? (Link opens in a new tab.)
Let’s begin directing this novel with the obvious concern – the writing style itself. Ask anyone who is into reading English fiction at large, they will tell you what makes Two States too shallow. If you believe something as Bhagat’s prose exists, it certainly lacks depth and finesse, often resorting to clichés and simplistic language that fail to engage the reader. And we can discuss the dialogues between characters, for instance, that lack authenticity and sophistication, undermining the emotional depth and complexity that the novel aims to convey. The dialogue often feels contrived and lacks the natural flow of genuine conversations. Otherwise, the novel’s premise is too good to be put at the altar of Chetan Bhagat’s poorly managed narrative in the novel.
Coming to the second point, I will like to discuss the character development in Two States. Let me admit, at the outset, it is underwhelming. The protagonists, Krish and Ananya, come across as one-dimensional and lacking in complexity. The most disappointing part of the character development aspect in the novel is that the motivations and inner struggles of the protagonists are presented in a shallow manner, leaving the reader disconnected from their emotional journey. Bhagat’s attempt to depict the complexities of intercultural relationships falls short due to the superficial portrayal of the characters and their development. It seems, like the author himself, the characters in the novel are in an absurd hurry to reach the last page of the novel. Hurray! Story narrated!
And of course, like any regular Hindi movie made by the Bollywood dynasty, the novel too has a predictable plot and progress. Anyone who reads literary works can easily understand in which direction the storyline is headed. It follows a linear narrative that offers little surprise or originality. The conflicts and resolutions are often conveniently resolved without delving into the deeper complexities of the issues at hand. This lack of depth robs the story of its potential to be thought-provoking or challenging, reducing it to a mere surface-level exploration of cultural differences. And, let me tell you a secret, you can know such things better by reading some real-life stories of people who have crossed the lengths of their states to get married to people from other states in India. You will find these stories in plenty on the internet and some might even be more complex and interesting than the one presented in Two States.
Though it might seem outright futility, if we compare Bhagat with other novelists of the time, we can easily find out that Bhagat’s writing style lacks more than it has. Authors like Jeet Thayil, Kiran Desai, or Jhumpa Lahiri skillfully tackle complex themes, employ nuanced language, and create multidimensional characters that resonate with readers on a profound level. Even Shobha De, at times, promises more than Bhagat despite her limited sources in terms of themes and subject matter at hand. In contrast, Bhagat’s novels lack the depth, nuance, and literary craftsmanship that elevate a book to the status of a significant literary work.
So, to conclude this review of Two States by Chetan Bhagat, let us understand that it fails to deliver a compelling narrative due to its shortcomings in writing style, character development, and plot structure. Though the novel may have enjoyed popularity because of its easy-reading storyline and no-nonsense development of the plot, it sticks to being a one-time hear-say story rather than a full-fledged novel or merit. Chetan Bhagat’s simplistic language, superficial characterisations, and formulaic storytelling prevent the novel from achieving a deeper exploration of its central themes. And therefore, let me admit and conjecture, readers who are seeking more nuanced and sophisticated narratives about intercultural relationships would be better served by exploring the works of other talented Indian authors. And that explains why while Bhagat may have found his place among casual readers of English fiction in India, he could not secure a place for himself in the contemporary discourses on Indian English literature.
Review by Adarsh for Indian Book Critics
Two States the story of my marriage by Chetan Bhagat – Book Review
- Critical Rating
One time read to understand, with an exaggeration, how Bhagat got married to his wife. If you are looking to have some literary pleasure, you won’t find it here. Just a story. Dry story. This happened. That happened. And that happened thereafter. That’s it.