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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Five Point Someone

Chetan Bhagat

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To purchase Five Point Someone

Title: Five Point Someone
Author: Chetan Bhagat
Genre: Novel
Written: 2004
Length: 270 pages
Availability: Five Point Someone - US
Five Point Someone - UK
Five Point Someone - Canada
Five Point Someone - India
Un misero 18 - Italia
Los del cinco y pico - España
  • What not to do at IIT

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Our Assessment:

B- : simplistic but lively campus novel

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
India Today . 6/6/2004 Tara Sahgal
Outlook India . 16/6/2004 Hari Menon
Outlook India . 21/6/2004 Devangshu Datta
The Sunday Tribune . 11/7/2004 Kannan Shastri

  From the Reviews:
  • "Although the writing can be quite jarring and clumsy -- this, however, could be intentional in an effort to create a narrative of authentic colloquial speech -- it is a well-constructed book with great characters and a captivating plot. Definitely on the right side of five-point something on a 10-point scale." - Tara Sahgal, India Today

  • "It gets the sex right (.....) It also manages to cover the heavy ground of life's lessons without the horribly earnest moralising and navel-gazing that is the bane of so much Indian writing in English. In fact for much of the narrative, Bhagat sustains a darkly funny tone that anyone from India's top professional colleges will instantly recognise. (...) Where Five Point Someone seems slightly let down, though, is in the editing of the beginning and the end of the novel. A more experienced editor would have fought a lot harder to keep out the author's explanations of what he is all about from the beginning and the end of the book." - Hari Menon, Outlook India

  • "In those terms, it's a slight story. But the book captures some of the ambience of a residential engineering institution with a subculture defined by its own dictionary of acronyms. The arrhythmia of the narrative reflects the staccato nature of a life of lazy moments interspersed with frantic activity. If it strikes the right chord in JEE qualifiers, Five Point Someone could achieve cult status." - Devangshu Datta, Outlook India

  • " The book, besides having a humorous appeal, also deals with the fears and insecurities of the students in one of the country’s top institutions. Its description of the lives of students in IIT or other higher-education institutions such as IIM or NID, rings true. It could be Harvard, except for the desi flavour of the locales. (...) The language used is original, and the dialogue fresh and youthful. The casual, easy-flowing style makes for easy reading. This is 270 pages of pure fun, and a steal at Rs 95. Carry on, Bhagat. You are doing pretty well for a five-point ‘somethinger’." - Kannan Shastri, The Sunday Tribune

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Five Point Someone is mainly narrated by Hari Kumar, and recounts the four years he and his buddies Alok Gupta and Ryan Oberoi spent studying mechanical engineering at the elite Indian university, the New Delhi Indian Institute of Technology. The IIT entrance exam is incredibly competitive, and with 'All India Ranks' of 326, 453, and 91 these three are among the cream of Indian high school students. Of course, college is a different matter -- and they don't perform quite so spectacularly there. Indeed, they flame out in their first semester, and with their five-point-something grades (on a scale where ten is a perfect score) find themselves languishing "in the high 200s in a class of 300 students" -- and, once identified as mediocre students, have little chance to improve their standing.
       The three are quite different characters, with Alok desperate to get a high-paying job to help out his family -- including his invalid father, and his sister, who has to get married off (an expensive proposition) -- while Ryan comes from a privileged household, but has rarely seen his parents since early childhood because they have been busy building their increasingly successful business. Hari narrates most of the story, but interspersed in his account are chapters in the voice of some of the other characters -- his two friends and the girl he gets involved with -- giving a bit more insight into their characters -- and Hari's own (as he remains quiet about his own family and background).
       Success at IIT comes with rote learning, and Ryan especially chafes at this, complaining about how the college stifles any creativity and how nothing of note has ever been produced at IIT, especially when compared to American universities. Ryan constantly eggs his friends on to join him in enjoying the college experience more fully, but it's difficult to reconcile academic success (which requires endless hours of cramming) with any sort of half-way real life. Hari does meet a girl, but Neha is the daughter of one of the toughest professors on campus, and he can only see her very occasionally.
       One of Ryan's plans to make it through IIT and still have some fun is 'the C2D plan' -- 'Cooperate to Dominate', where they divide the work among themselves, each attending only a third of the classes, but sharing their notes and everything for those classes with the others. It's unclear exactly how much time and effort are saved by this -- and how things such as the apparently frequent in-class pop-quizzes are dealt with -- but then Five Point Someone isn't so much about the details as the big ideas like the all-for-one camaraderie this kind of idea fosters .....
       C2D already has a whiff of cheating about it, but things get worse when they finally get around to taking a class by the notoriously tough Prof Cherian -- a famed ten-point-zero man in his IIT student days, and Neha's father. Desperate, the three hatch an even more outrageous plan (and then flub it in the most ridiculous way).
       As always in Chetan Bhagat's novels, dubious morality is hardly a problem. Indeed, Hari notes that:

We probably were real criminals. But that was not the point.
       Indeed, in Bhagat's novels it's rarely the point -- indeed, it hardly matters at all. His characters rarely wrestle with their consciences, and here it's not so much lying and cheating but their stupidity (in how they let themselves be caught) that gets them a slap on the wrist punishment that turns out not to be so bad at all.
       Eventually the trio does buckle down and dedicates themselves to their studies, Hari even telling Neha about the college experience:
It is about knowledge. And making the most of the system, even if it has flaws.
       It's not very convincing -- even in buckling down it is less knowledge than a secure, high-paying job they're hustling after, and there's essentially no mention of what they actually learned (beyond some 'life lessons') at IIT; only the most free-spirited of the lot, Ryan, really seems interested in acquiring scientific knowledge, tinkering with his lube experiments. (Hari and Alok help him out for a while, spending many hours every day at it, yet Bhagat doesn't giver the least sense of what they actually spend their time doing; science and indeed any form of academic-knowledge-acquisition remains entirely off-stage, as that's not what school is about for Bhagat.)
       As in Bhagat's other novels, this one is almost entirely about friendship, as yet again (well, this was the first one, but it was a formula he would go on to repeat) a trio of young men gets thrown together and, despite some strong disagreements, does their best all-for-one-and-one-for-all act. Despite the often childish simplicity of the story -- complete with extremely unlikely events and several melodramatic ones -- it is admittedly reasonably entertaining and rousing: a buddy-movie/soap opera version of the campus novel (that goes super-lite on the academics). Helped by the fact that even the silliest turns are quickly left behind -- four years of college are speedily covered in under three hundred pages, after all -- Five Point Someone offers up enough action, drama, and amusement at a steady (and fast) pace to keep readers entertained.
       Five Point Someone is certainly a bad book, but Bhagat's tone -- Hari's voice is a fairly compelling one -- , the happy-go-lucky attitudes, and the campus-novel nostalgia ("I might have passed out of IIT, but in some ways my soul is still there", Hari wistfully notes at the end) strikes enough chords and give it an undeniable appeal. The messages it sends are terrible -- it is deeply objectionable in its lack of a moral code, and even the generous acts of friendship are too often arbitrary or involve deceit -- and much of the writing is too, but it's certainly readable, and even with all its flaws is a pretty catchy story.

       [Note: Given the success of the book one would wish that at least the worst of the writing mistakes were cleared up in later editions; my copy is the twenty-sixth (!) impression (and it's from way back in 2006) and still includes sentences such as:
The living room was where lived Alok's father, entertaining himself with one of the two TV channels, close to unconscious by the time we reached.
       Unacceptable. ]

- M.A.Orthofer, 6 December 2011

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Five Point Someone: Reviews: IIT: Chetan Bhagat: Other books of interest under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Indian literature

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About the Author:

       Immensely popular Indian author Chetan Bhagat was born in 1974.

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© 2011-2021 the complete review

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