Say Hello to Chetan Bhagat! The erstwhile
IIT-IIM-ian, who has sold a lot of 100-rupee
books, now wants to be Bollywood’s
Stephen King and John Grisham rolled into one.
Because Hello is not only an adaptation of Bha¬
gat’s “international bestseller” One Night @ The
Call Center, but it also turns him into screen¬
No wonder, just like One Night..., his second
book, the screen adaptation is lousy, over-simplified and melodramatic. Directed by the erstwhile actor Atul Agnihotri (remember Pooja
Bhatt’s wooden lover in Sir?), who earlier made
the weepy sleepy Dil Ne Jise Apna Kaha, Hello
has such a dragging narrative that it doesn’t
even deserve to be a daily soap on TV.
Bhagat being the screenplay writer, the film
hardly makes any changes to the book. The plot
points are ditto. Same for the flashback points.
Only it starts off and ends differently, with the
person listening to the story being Salman
Khan, as the superstar. He promises the storyteller (Katrina Kaif, in the film’s other special
appearance) that if she tells him the story he
would make it into a film.
As if the story wasn’t lame enough, the way
it’s told by Atul makes things worse. While
building on the individual problems of the six
call centre employees, he neglects the bigger picture completely. The underlying tension in the
book, of call volumes from the US going down
dramatically and the desperation for an incoming call, is just not there. So at the end, when six
becomes 600 — not a single other call centre employee is shown prior to that! — the Rang De
Basanti-like let’s-give-it-back-to-them rousing
speech has very little effect.
What works to a large extent, primarily because of their performances, is the love story between Sharman Joshi and Gul Panag. She loves
him but would rather marry the Lexus-driving
NRI. He loves her but is seeing a chalti-firti cartoon network to get over her. Also quite effective
is the chemistry between Sharman and Sohail
with their riotous one-liners. There’s a must-
watch toilet scene, where they fall over each
other at all the wrong places at the wrong times.
But for those two pluses, there are millions of
minuses. Ishaa Koppikar as the aspiring-model-
gone-astray and Amrita Arora as the housewife-
in-distress are terribly miscast. Dalip Tahil’s
stage hangover continues as he plays the I-love-
my-America boss way over the top. Add two
noisy songs (Sajid-Wajid) in the middle somewhere. Even that could have been dealt with, but
the telephone call from God — supposed to be
the pièce de résistance — is so 80s Doordarshan,
so frightfully old school, that there’s nothing left
to savour or salvage.
For Salman fans, there’s good news and bad
news. Yes, he takes off his shirt but he is there
for just two songs and one scene, which is cut
into three parts. Even that seems an overstay,
given Salman’s drowsy indifference. But given
the story, even if it’s Katrina narrating it to him,
we can’t really blame the man. You would do
well to follow suit and doze off.
As for Mr Bhagat, we hope God gives you a
call and keeps you away from Rajkumar Hirani’s
adaptation of that other marginally better book
of yours. Otherwise you might just look like one
of the 3 Idiots.