Outsourced, a dinky romantic comedy set in India, has been on the international festive circuit for the last couple of years and has received some fairly positive reviews. It was the official selection at the Toronto Film Festival too.
But that was in 2006.
The makers/distributors of the film, which releases across cities on Friday, should know that this country changes every day. It’s unfair to ask movie watchers who have ridden the rollercoaster that is India for two years since the movie’s release to identify with life back then.
Who wants to spend precious movie-watching time remembering the days when the world was up in arms about Western jobs being outsourced to India? We now live in a global war zone where Indian IT professionals (and everyone else) routinely lose their jobs. The same IT firms that were responsible for the outsourcing trend are now moving jobs from India to Mexico. They call it reverse outsourcing.
Even if you don’t mind putting aside an hour and 40 minutes to watch one Todd Anderson (played by the sweet Josh Hamilton) from Seattle accent train a bunch of Indians who work in a call centre in a town called Gharapuri, it’s my duty to inform you that this is yet another “discovery of India” style movie.
Yes, yes, we know everyone who comes to India has an epiphany. Even if they believe, as one character in the film points out, that I.N.D.I.A stands for I’ll Never Do It Again.
So Todd (Toad after you apply the local accent) is forced to come to India after his department is laid off because his company can get eight Indians for the price of one American. His job is to train an Indian manager to run the call centre competitively and bring down the average length of an outsourced call to 6 minutes from the current 12 or so minutes.
He starts off by hating India and then, after he lets go and immerses himself (literally) in the alien culture (or the local water tank), he learns to embrace a country that is so far removed from home. Along the way, he picks up the usual lessons on love and life.
Maybe the sheer brightness of India lends itself to cinematic clichés. My brother’s American fiancée just arrived from California a couple of days ago and I’ve already taken her on a Victoria ride along Marine Drive and fed her Green Chilly ice-cream at Bachelors on Chowpatty.
So maybe the India experience is about arranged marriages; the art of eating a mango; learning why the left hand is considered “dirty”; encountering a very nosy landlady who thinks you’re old enough to be a grandfather; coming face-to-face with a gazillion different idols including one scary Kali and another that is a phallic symbol; and trying to buy a cheesburger at the vegetarian Mac Donnell’s.
Problem is, we’ve been there, done that. Everyone knows Indians say “no problem” when, in fact, there is in all probability, a couple of problems. And please, do we really have to be subject to an American man telling an Indian woman she has beautiful eyes and asking her to explain what the dot on her forehead means.
There are a handful of brilliant comic moments in the film. Like the time Todd doesn’t see the notice the landlady’s stuck on his bedroom door warning him not to step out that day. It’s the festival of Holi. Or the time his colleague and new lover Asha (Ayesha Dharker), tells him she and her friends refer to a fling as a “Holiday in Goa”.
“So I’m just your holiday in Goa,” Todd replies.
“Not just, you’re my only holiday,” she replies indignantly.
If, like me, you’re the nitpicky sort, avoid the film. If you’re like my husband, who believes you shouldn’t think too much when you’re watching a movie, what the hell, go for it. Three or four laughs are guaranteed.