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A few years ago I read an article that stated that Indian call centers were requiring their employees to watch episodes of popular American television shows such as Seinfeld and Friends in order to grasp our culture, mannerisms, and slang.
While it seems hard to believe that a call center employee would have to discuss whether or not somebody was “sponge-worthy” or say “yada yada yada” as they did on Seinfeld or make references to “going commando” or debating the endless drama of Ross and Rachel from Friends, now with more companies than ever moving to Mumbai and Bombay, the emphasis for Indian employees-- in order to avoid rude or short tempered customers in America and the UK-- is to pass oneself off as though they were our countrymen and women.
And although it's only referenced as one tiny piece in Danny Boyle’s Academy Award winning Best Picture masterpiece cinematic puzzle Slumdog Millionaire where our main character has to pretend he’s from the UK (which in fact is an inside joke since the actor Dev Patel is), it’s the main plot-line of director James Dodson’s charming, sleeper romantic comedy The Other End of the Line.
Penned by Confessions of a Shopaholic and The Guru screenwriter Tracey Jackson-- Line which was benefits from its on location shoot throughout India-- introduces us to our Mumbai based heroine Priya (Shriya) who pulls all-nighters working for the fictitious “CityOne Bank” in the Lost and Stolen Cards department.
Having perfected what her father calls her Barbra Streisand impression in portraying herself to callers as San Francisco native Jennifer David, and thankfully having worked her way out of the starting “location” for call center employees of New Jersey where her friends joke that everyone curses at them, Priya is one of CityOne Bank’s most experienced and valuable employees. Moreover, she's a quick study, having soaked up all of their training that includes memorizing the difference between actresses Sarah Michelle Gellar, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Mary Louise Parker.
At twenty-two years of age, Priya is beginning to see the contradiction between her faux carefree made-up life in San Francisco as Jennifer and her family arranged traditional Indian engagement to a young man who expresses his wish for her to stay home and raise the children but still live with his parents since he feels that she’ll benefit considerably from the teachings and cooking of his mother.
When she begins a professional telephone relationship with the young, wealthy, New York advertising employee and aspiring yuppie Granger Williams (Jesse Metcalfe) after his card is stolen, the two begin to chat for increasing periods of time as first he begins to make distinctions of which charges belonged to him and which are fraudulent but when he catches the local bug going around town, they move into other topics such as cold remedies, grilled cheese sandwiches, and the movie The Notebook. Luckily, with Google at her fingertips she's able to keep up the guise that she’s a fellow American by doing quick searches whenever she gets confused and after she sees a photo of Granger, her crush deepens.
However, the audience is quick to realize that Granger himself is in a similar situation paired with a woman whom he describes as one who “looks good on paper,” but is about as warm and cuddly as Kelly Preston’s character from Jerry Maguire. When Granger announces that he has to travel to San Francisco for a business presentation and suggests getting together in her hometown, nervously Priya first comes up with some excuse but then she shocks everyone especially her best friend when she takes the plunge, gets on a plane and journeys to California.
Instinctively sensing some type of romantic bond as opposed to just giving into cold feet from her upcoming nuptials, Priya cautiously prepares herself to meet Granger but when he passes right by her in the hotel bar while looking for a Caucasian woman who would match the Streisand voice, she nearly gives up hope before the two meet cute in the hotel lobby. Now being able to meet him as simply herself except with the bonus of a few white lies to “smooth things over,” Granger and Priya hit it off but things grow complicated when the truth is revealed, cultures clash, and her family gets on the first plane that they can find to track down their runaway daughter.
Admittedly predictable yet endearingly sweet and buoyed by the instantly lovable turn by Shriya who seems to be a natural for romantic comedies-- while at times the film does grow a little overly broad when her relatives arrive and act like a cross between some of the characters in My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Bride and Prejudice, it’s still a remarkably fresh feeling romantic comedy.
Moreover, it sets itself apart by its Pillow Talk or Truth About Cats and Dogs like origins (feeling as The Hollywood Reporter noted like an “old-fashioned romantic comedy transposed to today…”) with the creative and timely premise that sometimes Mr. or Ms. Right is not after all the person next door but is rather outsourced and waiting in an entirely different country.
Colorful, bright, and fun-- while some viewers may have trouble overlooking the far-fetched premise and idea of love in a call center separated by countless countries, nonetheless it's a positive and upbeat romantic take that reminds audiences that (no matter how they may feel about outsourcing) that despite the fact that we don’t have control over companies that leave countries and shuffle around to different places, in the end, we’re a globe full of citizens. Moreover, we're one united by our common ideas and wishes for life, love, and the pursuit of happiness no matter where we may be on the map or on the phone.