Thursday, January 31, 2008

One Night @ The Call Center

By when you make it to page twenty of Chetan Bhagat’s One Night @ The Call Center, you see a Bollywood screenplay pretty much writing itself. Had I been more Bollywood-savvy I would have figured the entire cast - a younger Rahul Bose seems perfect for Sam, the narrator. I don’t say this is a demeaning way at all. In the right directorial hands, this is a story ripe for being Bollywoodized.

The material is fully ready waiting merely a couple of item numbers to be shoe horned at the right spots. There is love, sex, heroes, villains, vamps, God (though God knows why) and a long suffering Indian wife who catches her husband cheating on her even as she slaves to make the perfect Badam Milk for his mother. Plot elements are borrowed from sources on cyberspace and elsewhere – probably a natural thing for something that has Bollywood stamped all over it.

Though the God element in the prologue was intriguing, I did not get the point in the end - especially in the epilogue. Other than that the story is quite readable actually – just like some Bollywood flicks are entertaining and watchable. Some of the stereotypes about the average American customer calling 800 numbers are rather lame - but then that is the nature of most stereotypes.

At any rate, Bhagat warns the reader very early not to expect a work of Naipul or Rushdie. That is a very useful disclaimer as it turns out. Talk about excellent reader expectation management. Whether or not Bhagat is a writer, he is a salesman par excellence. Reading the Wikipedia entry confirms my first instinct : Bollywood has been quick to snap up the rights.

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