Sunday, October 12, 2008



Chetan Bhagat's bestselling novel One Night @ the Call Centre, was among the first to capture the empty lives of call centre employees, who inhabit a universe of their own, where they take on American accents and names, work US hours, earn money but lose touch with real life.

There was, maybe, a movie there, but Atul Agnihtori's half-baked Hello is not it. Since the author has collaborated on the script, one can only say that the page is a completely different ball game from the screen. The film begins with a rock star (Salman Khan) getting off a helicopter and dancing on stage. Later, as he waits in a lounge, for the chopper to be repaired, a young woman (Katrina Kaif) come in. While he flirts with her, she interests him in listening to a story, provided he promises to make a film on it.

The story is about a phone call from God to a group of call centre employees-- sounds interesting, but God takes his own sweet time getting into the story. Till then, the audience is privy to the banal lives of this BPO bunch, summoned by their mean boss Bakshi (Dalip Tahil) to work on a stormy night. Shyam (Sharman Joshi), is in love with colleague Priyanka (Gul Panag), who is engaged to be married to a rich NRI. Varun (Sohail), is in love with Eesha (Eesha Koppikkar), who wants to be a model. The gang is completed by Radhika (Amrita Arora) is an oppressed housewife with an absentee husband and monster mother-in-law, and Military Uncle (Sharat Saxena) a lonely old man missing his son, who has moved to the US and never looked back.

They yap and whine most of the night, but Agnihotri cannot get the audience to care about any of them or their insignificant problems, or even extract one decent performance. Since the action is confined to this group and their interaction with the creepy boss, there is no comment on the socio-economic aspect of the BPO culture. Rather childishly, the film makes all Americans out to be idiots, who call for help when their vacuum cleaner sucks in their socks, or their computer won't start, because they haven't the sense to use the on-off switch.

At some point, God tells them to get out there and be confident, so they conclude that to save their jobs they must increase call volumes, it is okay to con the "bewaqoof goras" with a false alarm about computer viruses. This does not make the 'goras' look as stupid as it makes the Indians look dishonest.

The moral of Hello is that if God comes down to earth to order Salman Khan to make a film on a best-selling novel, he should tell Him (or Her), that he has a better writer (Salim Khan) at home.


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