Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"Outsourced" Not a movie review

It has been almost two weeks since my last post..sheesh! Oh well.

Writers (WGA):
George Wing (written by) &
John Jeffcoat (written by)
Rated PG-13 for some sexual content.
USA:103 min (theatrical version) / Canada:98 min (Toronto International Film Festival)

A couple of weeks ago I managed to catch the independent movie "Outsourced" at the TheaterN in Wilmington. I absolutely loved the movie. Here is a link to the movie's website, the producer Tom Gorai has a facebook site too! link

If you believe that indie cinema is good for you and you want to try and spread the word about this film and try to see if you can get it screened in your area, here is a link to what you can do.

Trailer of the movie and my "Not A Review" after that.

"Outsourced" begins when a Seattle call center manager ,Todd (Josh Hamilton) is told he is being downsized, his only option is to go to India as a consultant to train the call center people there, in things like sounding "American" and to try and get the MPI (minutes per incident) on the phone down to 6 minutes from the 13-15 minutes they were spending per customer.

Todd has little choice, he has no interest in going to India, so naturally it is not going to surprise you to see Todd go thru all the things that people fighting something undergo especially in a place he does not want to be in initially. The cultural and other differences are almost overwhelming for Todd (he misses the guy who has come to pick him up because the sign he is holding up for him is misspelled as "Toad" instead of "Todd" and he misses him in the crush of humanity outside the arrival area. On his own Todd manages to reach the town of Gharapuri away from Bombay where he finally meets Puro (shortened from Purohit) played by Asif Basra the "future" call center manager. He convinces Todd to stay at his aunt's place rather than at the only hotel in town as he will be looked after better and the food and water will be hygienic.

Todd agrees reluctantly and is educated in a few more of the differences when his hosts get shocked that he eats with his left hand and gets a demo about why that is not done, this was pretty hilarious. He also gets grilled about not being married (is it because he is gay?), no living with his parents and not seeing them often. Todd being American does not have as strong a sense of his identity as do the Indians around him especially when it comes to family ties and social obligations.

Todd's goal to improve the MPI is helped both by Puro but even more by the smart, charming and outspoken Asha (played brilliantly by Ayesha Dharker) his best employee who has a crush on him. She asks Todd why it's necessary for Indian call-center workers to pose as Americans while selling cheap junk made in China (Made me crack up!).

He is however not challenged by his job and has a tough time believing that the employees like some of the tacky stuff their company sells, but his transformation has slowly begun. While on an impulsive trip to a McDonald's knockoff he meets a fellow American who offers him a simple bit of advice "I was resisting India. Once I gave in, I did much better".

His transformation is complete when he takes a dip in a local water tank (that he overlooks from his host's house) following his dousing with colors after the Indian festival of Holi. I could not help but notice the metaphorical reference here to baptism and to a spiritual meaning attached to the cleansing of oneself in water something prominent in Hinduism as well.

As Todd and Asha draw closer he comes to understand India better. He comes to understand the circle of preservation, destruction and creation as exemplified by Kali. He also find out about the significance of the Shiva lingam and the Yoni, the oneness of and the complimentary nature of the male and the female, through his interaction with Asha. Dharker is brilliant here and in several more scenes. Certain things are not as easy to talk about for her and her inner conflict, her reticence and her intelligence and outspokenness and the feelings that Todd evokes in her are portrayed very well by Dharker with her expressive features and body language.

Asha in a lot of ways exemplified the changing face of the Indian woman who, thanks to education and economic freedoms appears to be stepping out of the box that tradition and culture create for her. She is engaged to be married to a guy from a family (that her family knows for generations) since she was a child, and in Todd she sees someone who will let her express her freedom. So is what they feel for each other love?

Asha explains to him that given the cultural background that this time with him is like a "Vacation in Goa". He asks her if that is all he means to her a vacation? Asha responds to him, tears in her eyes "You are the only vacation in Goa".

I thought this was a more honest portrayal of a modern Indian woman than one often sees in some of the Bollywood movies. Where do Todd and Asha go from here? There relationship has something deeper in it and I would let you watch the movie to figure that one out.

There are quite a few funny moments in the movie including one where the Indian and American words for an eraser had me in splits. Indians call an eraser "rubber" which causes confusion with their American customers. "Rubber" is slang for a condom as Todd tells them, much to the chagrin, shock and amusement of the Indian employees. The funniest part was when one of them looks at it and wonders aloud "How does that work?" Look for a hilarious scene where Asha does the American accent and Todd the Indian way of talking, including the shake of the head (Clip below).

The movie has captured India very well, and everything about India as we see in the movie is genuine..the taste, culture, sights (you can almost get the myriad smells of the place too) , the people and their humanity.

I thought the director John Jeffcoat, does a great job here in how he uses a light hearted movie to portray the different cultural nuances on both sides, their effects on love, work and friendship. He also examines the effects of globalization on people and their sense of identity.. personal, cultural and national. He does it in a light hearted manner using humor and some astute observations that make the message subtle but a very important one.

Events in the movie reflect the reality that the individual on all sides of this issue is powerless before the economic forces. Traditional values and notions do get questioned and change is scary but it is often how one reacts to change that matters what the movie is saying to its audience and that the call is to be pragmatic about it.

This is one heck of a charming movie.

Hilarious clip from the movie where Asha and Todd imitate each others ways of speaking (American and Indian).


Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Sanj! I want to see this movie for several reasons...for your great review; the fact that it's a product of Independent Cinema; that it's funny and well-made; for Ayesha Dharker whose performance I have been told is spectacular and last, but not least, because my sister is a language trainer in India. I just wish they would hurry up and release it here!

I was looking at the some of the links you included and it mentions the DVD....have you looked for it on netflix yet?

Thank you for spreading the word about the movie Sanj...I hope to able to see it soon so I can do that same!

Sanjay said...

Hey there buddy, how are ya? Thank you so much for your kind words and comment. It really is a wonderful movie, despite a few cliches, but they don't quite feel like cliches you know?

Yes Ayesha Dharker is an amazing actress, I have to see her other movies now.

How interesting that your sis is a language trainer in India!!! I think she would get a kick out of parts of this movie. :)

What I loved also is how balanced they were in treating this issue.

I do try to watch as many indie films as I can, and as much as I love the occasional Hollywood blockbuster, I want to see movies that make me think too and entertain at the same time. This movie really did that.

The movie is not out on DVD yet or on netflix, but apparently the movie website is selling a special preview edition DVD.

Could you perhaps write to the e-mail address (once you visit the link) to see if you can request a screen in your neck of the woods?

Thank you for your comment, and I hope you get to watch the movie too. Have a great day!

Happy Reader said...

Thanks for the brilliant review! It sounds very interesting. I really enjoyed viewing the clips you posted. Should watch this sometime soon

moegirl said...

That looks like a great movie. I hope it comes to Portland. We generally get the smaller films, but they are here so briefly, its easy to miss them. I will be on the look out for this one.

Coffee-Drinking Woman said...

That does look like a good movie - now that I've finally had time to read your un-review, I agree!

Ash said...

Sounds like an interesting movie. I enjoyed the reviews and the clips. Thanks for sharing!

Id it is said...

'Marginalization' and now 'outsourcing'... it's interesting how themes are changing as the world becomes a smaller place, thanks to the giant innovations in science and technology. It appears our personal spaces are growing smaller as the world closes in. Just a few days ago in school, we were discussing the changing trends in Literature, and themes came under scrutiny right away;themes of the holocaust, colonialism, are fast receding into the background and issues born out of globalization, most of which are identity (ethnic/national)related, are on the rise.

Thanks for the heads up on this movie; I'll definitely watch it.

sandhya said...

I finally watched this movie via Netflix yesterday, and I'm so glad I did. It had been a while since I read your "not a review" but you hit on a lot of my observations. Thanks for the recommendation!