Call centre charmer

January 2, 2009; BANGALORE:


Anand parthasarathy does the first ever review of Outsourced - a film about targets in a BPO, with a hint of sweet romance.

It is difficult for most Americans to remain neutral in any debate about outsourcing. If it is the big corporates and IT honchos -- they're all for it. If it is your average professional,  their attitude is best exemplified by T-shirts carrying messages like "My job was outsourced to Bangalore and all I got was this lousy T shirt". 


Film maker John Jeffcoat spent a semester in the Indian subcontinent before co-writing and directing "Outsourced".  He and his production company are based in Seattle - which as we all all know is home to Microsoft and therefore more prone than most to the effects of outsourcing to India.  


Filmed in Mumbai and Seattle, the film follows Todd (Josh Hamilton, a stage, screen and television veteran) on a training mission to the recently set up Indian call centre of American Novelty Products which "sells kitsch to redneck schmucks" .  The centre takes over 12 minutes for an average call.  His mission is to cut this to six.


The centre looks like a half finished concrete bunker and the supervisor Purohit (played with great charm by  Asif Basra/ 'Jab we met', 'Mixed Doubles', 'Love in Nepal') struggles to conquer the cultural barriers that confront his dozen-strong team as they battle the prejudices of  Middle America. Star performer is Asha (Ayesha Dharkar of "The Terrorist" fame, who appeared in Star Wars Ep 2 as well as a number of episodes of the UK soap, Coronation Street, during 2008.)  who dares to tell Todd that he needs to  understand India and Indians before he can presume to train them. 


Cross cultural roadblocks might seem naive to Indian audiences -- but  they are likely to forgive the cliches because it's all delivered with a light touch and no messages. The outsourcer is himself outsourced -- and  the film ends on a tentative romantic note after a 100 minutes of pleasant and good natured  'timepass'. 


For director Jeffcoat, the  film had one unexpected spin off --he was commissioned  by NBC to create a pilot for a possible television comedy  serial about an Indian call centre.  And for Ayesha, this is  a film that might help solidify her image in India as a versatile and sensitive actress -- something audiences abroad already  know.