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Doing Business in India For Dummies
by Ranjini Manian
(Discounted Paperback from Amazon)
This romantic comedy dealing with an issue of timely relevance turns out to be worth watching mostly because of its general positivity. Well-intentioned and devoid of political baggage, it makes its brave way resolutely, ignoring all signs of low budget and acting limitation.
Todd Anderson (Josh Hamilton), a mid-level manager in a Seattle telemarketing firm selling novelties made in China, is sent by his boorish superior Dave (Matt Smith) to India to oversee a new operation there where employees work for a fraction of American wage scales. While there, he's to train his Indian replacement. The thought that his job may be petering out stings him, but he's got no other choice.
After an identity screw-up at the airport, he makes his way to Mumbai (previously Bombay) where he finally hooks up with Purohit N. Virajnarianan (Asif Basra), his eager beaver trainee trying hard to make a good impression. They proceed to a one-story concrete building that doesn't seem to have been completed. Inside is the work room, a series of stalls containing phones and computers, and the local staff working at a desultory pace.
Proving himself to be a better problem-solver than he (or we) expected, Anderson soon sets up a training course for the lot, attempting to teach American vernacular to the bewildered English-speaking telemarketers so that they may communicate better with customers. The more difficult lesson is to somehow explain the desire some Americans have for kitschy items with no apparent use or value, such as a "branding tool" and a cheese hat, both items in their catalogue. It also becomes a two-way street when Anderson finds that the need to learn some Indian culture is just as necessary for him.
In these sessions and during the work day, Asha (Ayesha Dharker) stands out for intelligence and her way of challenging him at every turn. He becomes aware that she's an exemplary worker and acts as an unappointed helper to the others. When his very uncool boss calls and demands improvement in the sales-per-calls to an almost unachievable ratio, Anderson is astute enough to enlist Asha for a position as assistant manager, which she takes on with great delight and quick result.
When the sales target is reached it brings blustery boss Dave for a visit to Mumbai in order to see how Anderson has done it and with a surprise up his sleeve. Dave is super-impressed when he and Anderson observe Asha handling an irate customer with a calm manner and a little psychology, closing the sale. Meanwhile, she and Anderson have become romantically involved and he's shocked when she explains her forthcoming arranged marriage.
The surprise for the viewer of this charmingly invented light comedy, is how well it all comes together in a well-crafted script by director John Jeffcoat (based on his travels in India and Nepal) and George Wing ("50 First Dates"). There's a nice unforced spirit that pervades the movie. What might have been a cheap imitation of the endless studio vehicles for top stars becomes a soft charmer, so long as you don't demand the high wattage of a Luke Wilson and, say, Uma Thurman or Kate Hudson. "Outsourced" offers its own, rough-edged and more modest, merits.
~~ Jules Brenner