Chetan Bhagat’s “One Night at the Call Center” is a novel that captures the lives of six call centre employees in Gurgaon, India, throughout a single night. This book, published in 2005, has garnered widespread popularity and has been adapted into a Bollywood film, “Hello.” While Bhagat is often credited with making English-language novels more accessible to Indian readers, his work has also attracted criticism for its perceived literary shortcomings. This detailed review will examine the various aspects of “One Night at the Call Centre,” analysing its strengths and weaknesses to provide a comprehensive evaluation.

Plot and Structure

The novel’s plot is relatively straightforward. It begins with the protagonist, Shyam Mehra, recounting an extraordinary night at the call centre to the narrator, who is implied to be Bhagat himself. The story unfolds non-linearly, with frequent flashbacks that provide background information on the characters and their lives.

The central narrative revolves around six call centre employees: Shyam, Priyanka, Vroom, Esha, Radhika, and Military Uncle. They are dealing with various personal and professional issues, from broken relationships and unfulfilled ambitions to familial pressures and self-doubt. One night, while dealing with demanding customers and a tyrannical boss, the group receives a phone call from God, which prompts them to confront their problems and make life-changing decisions.

Character Development

Character development is one of the book’s mixed aspects. On the one hand, Bhagat attempts to flesh out each character’s backstory, providing insight into their motivations and struggles. Shyam, the protagonist, is portrayed as a man grappling with low self-esteem and professional dissatisfaction. Priyanka, his ex-girlfriend, is torn between her love for Shyam and her obligation to marry an NRI chosen by her mother. Vroom, the rebellious techie, embodies youthful angst and disillusionment with the corporate world. Esha, the aspiring model, struggles with the consequences of compromising her values. Radhika, the married woman, deals with an unfaithful husband and oppressive in-laws. Military Uncle, the oldest group member, faces estrangement from his family.

While these character sketches are relatable and reflect the aspirations and challenges of contemporary Indian youth, they often lack depth and nuance. The characters sometimes come across as stereotypes, with their traits and problems painted in broad strokes. For example, Vroom’s rebellion and Esha’s modelling ambitions are depicted with a degree of superficiality that diminishes the complexity of their experiences.


“One Night at the Call Centre” explores several themes relevant to modern urban India. One prominent theme is the impact of globalisation and the outsourcing industry on Indian society. As a setting, the call centre symbolises the intersection of Western influence and Indian labour, highlighting issues such as job dissatisfaction, identity crisis, and cultural dissonance. Bhagat effectively portrays call centre work’s monotonous and often dehumanising nature, where employees adopt fake Western accents and personas to appease foreign customers.

Another significant theme is the pursuit of personal happiness and fulfilment. Each character’s journey reflects a search for meaning and self-worth amid societal and familial pressures. The phone call from God catalyses self-reflection, urging the characters to take control of their destinies and break free from their constraints.

The novel also touches upon themes of love and relationships, examining the complexities of romantic entanglements and familial bonds. Shyam and Priyanka’s on-again, off-again relationship, Radhika’s troubled marriage, and Military Uncle’s estrangement from his family highlight the emotional turmoil accompanying human connections.

Writing Style

Bhagat’s writing style is simple and accessible, contributing to his popularity among readers who may not typically engage with English literature. He employs a conversational tone, peppered with colloquial expressions and humour, making the book an easy read. This style is particularly effective in capturing the call centre environment’s informal and often irreverent atmosphere.

However, the simplicity of Bhagat’s prose can also be seen as a limitation. Critics argue that his writing lacks the literary finesse and depth that characterise more acclaimed works of fiction. While realistic in its casualness, the dialogue can sometimes feel contrived or clichéd. Moreover, the narrative occasionally relies on melodrama and sentimentality, which may detract from the story’s overall impact.

Social Commentary

Bhagat’s novel offers social commentary on various aspects of contemporary Indian life. The portrayal of the call centre industry sheds light on the economic opportunities and challenges brought about by globalisation. The characters’ struggles with parental expectations, societal norms, and professional pressures reflect the broader conflicts faced by many young Indians.

The novel also addresses gender issues, mainly through the experiences of Priyanka, Esha, and Radhika. Priyanka’s dilemma of choosing between love and parental approval, Esha’s exploitation in the modelling industry, and Radhika’s subjugation in her marriage highlight the persistent gender inequalities and cultural constraints that women encounter.


Read more: Chetan Bhagat (a detailed biography)



Despite its popularity, “One Night at the Call Centre” has faced several criticisms. One major critique is the novel’s reliance on a deus ex machina—the phone call from God—to resolve the characters’ conflicts. While this plot device adds an element of intrigue, it can be perceived as a convenient and somewhat unrealistic solution to the characters’ problems.

Additionally, the novel’s portrayal of certain characters and situations has been criticised for reinforcing stereotypes. The depiction of Western customers as rude and demanding and the portrayal of call centre employees as largely disillusioned and unhappy may oversimplify the complexities of the outsourcing industry.

Furthermore, some readers may find the novel’s moralistic undertones and didactic messages off-putting. The characters’ sudden epiphanies and resolutions, prompted by the divine intervention, can come across as preachy and simplistic.

Cultural Impact

Despite its flaws, “One Night at the Call Centre” has made a significant cultural impact. Bhagat’s portrayal of the call centre industry resonated with many young Indians in similar job environments. The novel’s success also contributed to the rise of contemporary Indian English literature, encouraging more writers to explore themes relevant to modern urban India.

The book’s adaptation into the ” Hello ” film extended its reach, bringing the story to a broader audience. While the film received mixed reviews, it underscored the novel’s cultural relevance and the public’s interest in stories that reflect their experiences.


Chetan Bhagat’s “One Night at the Call Centre” is a novel that captures the zeitgeist of urban India in the early 21st century. Its accessible writing style, relatable characters, and exploration of relevant themes have made it popular among young Indians. The novel’s strengths lie in its depiction of the call centre industry and its reflection on contemporary societal issues.

However, the book also has notable weaknesses, including its reliance on stereotypes, simplistic writing style, and reliance on a deus ex machina plot device. While it may not appeal to all readers, particularly those seeking literary depth and complexity, it remains essential for its cultural impact and role in popularising Indian English literature.

Ultimately, “One Night at the Call Centre” is a novel that should be read with an understanding of its context and limitations. It offers a snapshot of a particular time and place in India’s economic and social landscape, providing entertaining and thought-provoking insights. Whether viewed as a piece of light fiction or a commentary on modern India, Bhagat’s novel continues to spark conversation and reflection among its readers.


Review by Golu for Indian Book Lovers

One Night at the Call Center by Chetan Bhagat Book Review
  • Rating by Indian Book Lovers


The book has its strengths and limitations.

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