'I'm just telling people to see the film and read my book. I know Aamir is a very powerful person. But finally the truth has to prevail, no? I'm no great artist. But there has to be fair play,' Bhagat told IANS.
Declaring that the film is based on his bestseller, Bhagat has objected to not being given prominence in the credits. Producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra, director Rajkumar Hirani as well as Aamir Khan have accused him of lying and trying to gain media attention.
'I'm being accused of trying to get mileage. Ten lakh copies of the book have been sold. The book has been read by one crore readers. Wouldn't they know the truth?'
'The makers of '3 Idiots' are busy with their victory tours all over the country. Sorry I spoilt their celebrations. The truth had to be told,' he said.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: You must be very upset by the latest proceedings?
A: You're a writer. You should know how it feels to have credit taken away from you. And it's not something only I'm saying. The book is there. The film is there. They've tried to take away from my contribution. My name is at the very end of the credit titles after the junior artists and still photographers. From the time they started making the film, they've been stressing that their product is different. It's like a systematic effort (to underplay my contribution). If you read the book and see the film, you'll see the similarities.
Q: So would you say '3 Idiots' is an adaptation of your novel?
A: '3 Idiots' is a total adaptation of my book. Some things are direct lifts, others indirect adaptations.
Q: Aamir thinks you are trying to take away credit from the film's writer Abhijat Joshi?
A: I heard his comments. But then he says he hasn't read the book. There's no denying Abhijat has done the screenplay. What Abhijat has done with my book can only be known if you've read it. If Aamir is so concerned about Abhijat not getting the publicity, he should let Abhijat talk. I very much respect Aamir. He's the reason I thought the project would have a lot of integrity. I know for a fact he was told not to read my book because they told him it'd affect his understanding of his story. I was told it was a different script.
Q: How would Aamir's perception have been affected if he read the book?
A: I don't know. I'm on a firm footing with the facts. See the film, read the book and judge for yourself. The whole plot-structure narrative, even dialogues about matar-paneer and Maruti 800 cars are from my novel. The novel was set in the 1990s. Aaj Maruti 800 kaun bolega? I mention 42 exams and 16 broken bones in my book. They have kept the same numbers in the film. Kareena's brother committing suicide on the railway tracks... so many other things in the film, it's all there in my novel.
Q: Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Aamir have accused you of trying to make mileage out of their movie?
A: If I didn't take up the issue properly, I wouldn't have been able to live with myself. If someone else goes and collects the award for best story at the awards functions, how will I feel? Only once I met Aamir. When I landed at Bangalore where they were shooting '3 Idiots', they said, 'Don't come we've too many visitors'. They prevented me from going on the set.
When the other film 'Hello' based on my novel 'One Night At The Call Centre' came did I say one word against the characterisations or treatment? I was credited properly for that. I haven't been credited for '3 Idiots'.
Q: Have you become embittered towards Bollywood?
A: You could make up any kind of contract. But is there any contract that stops people from being petty? My last novel 'Three Mistakes Of My Life' is being directed by Abhishek Kapoor. I am co-scripting it. There's a lot of interest in adapting my latest novel '2 States: The Story Of My Life'. I don't think there would be any problem with future project.
With '3 Idiots' I know I'm in the right. I'm just telling people to see the film and read my book. I know Aamir is a very powerful person. But finally the truth has to prevail, no? I'm no great artist, but there has to be fair play. I'm being accused of trying to get mileage. Ten lakh copies of the book have been sold. The book has been read by one crore readers. Wouldn't they know the truth?
Q: What do you intend to do?
A: The makers of '3 Idiots' are busy with their victory tours all over the country. They're naturally being asked about the similarities between my book and the film. Sorry, I spoilt their celebrations. The truth had to be told. I've been told by them, 'You're just a writer. You don't realise how big we are.'