Last week I watched Outsourced on Star Movies. I just happened to arrive on the channel when the movie was just starting.
To be honest, I expected a Slumdog from Outsourced. Fortunately, I was wrong. In the first 15 minutes of the movie, there is a scene in which the central character Todd(the superb Josh Hamilton) is trying to catch a train running along the platform with his heavy suitcase. Another guy starts running along with him, picks up his suitcase, and helps Todd get in the train. Knowing the gora's idea(Danny and Co's idea actually) of India and its people I expected him to run away with the suitcase then and there. When he respectfully places the suitcase in the compartment running along the platform, I couldnt help feel ashamed of myself, that I thought like that about a fellow Indian. I also felt bad that I had so conveniently thought that all firangs were narrow-minded idiots.
I am not much of a movie person. My idea of heaven is a huge plasma TV with all sitcom titles available on a hard drive. But 15 mins into Outsourced, and I knew I had a movie on my hands.
The movie is hilarious. It is essentially a situational comedy. This movie is about Todd (whom the Indians call Mr.Toad) who gets an assignment of training his counterpart in India. How he first resists India and at last falls in love with her forms the plot. But its not the story but the characters, the screenplay and the brilliant dialogues which make it enjoyable.
Like this one -
Indian : What is your good name sir?
Most Indians will get the joke. We say - "aapka shubh(good) naam kya hai?".We very conveniently convert the hindi into english, word by word!
Then there is this scene about holi, when Todd's Indian colleague asks him not to come out of his house...
Todd: But why?
Colleague: Because today is holi, sir!
Todd: Holy what?
Colleague: Only holi!! The festival of colours.
What follows after that is fun.. teenagers throwing water balloons at Todd and him throwing back a few of his own.
Outsourced does a marvellous job of staying away from cliches, characters are excellently sketched, its difficult to find caricatures in this movie.
There is fantastic scene where Asha(Ayesha Dharker), who plays a bpo agent, has to sell a product to an American.
American customer: I lost my job because of you.
Asha: Well, I cant do anything about it sir, but if you want I can give you the website of a company which has its customer service agents in the US and offers the same product.
Am customer: Well, would the price be the same?
Asha: No sir, it will be $212 more.
Am customer : What the heck, send me your product.
Man, it does sound very kiddie at first, but when you think about it, its so damn cool!
The problem with Slumdog Millionaire was that it treated India as a Third World country. I have no problems with that. We are that, accepted. But we are not only that! Theres is a lot more to this country than slums, beggars, people who scoop childrens eyes out, slumlords, slumlords who become real estate barons, bpo agents who leave their seat to dial Kaun Banega Crorepati's number.. I am sure there are people like that. But there is a small number of people like that.
In a country like India, even exceptions run into millions.
Maybe slumdog was a story of those millions but the way it projected India made it sound like there were a billion slumdogs in this country. Everyone who is reading this post in their college or in the comfort of their homes or in an internet cafe know thats not true.
A friend once asked me what place I would like to visit atleast once in my life...I said I wanted to visit Sweden. Now I know no more about Sweden than Danny Boyle knows about Mulund, but I really wanna visit that country. The reason being that I read real nice things about the place in the book - "Catch me if you can" by Frank Abagnale Jr. There are about 15 lines about Sweden in there, and you fall in love with the place.
You know one place that I was scared of? - Rio De Janeiro. I saw the movie Cidade de Deus which is about the mafia in Rio. It took Dhoom 2 to change my perception about the place.
Doesnt Outsourced have its own share of slums and slumdogs? Yes it does.
There is a scene in the first 30 mins of the movie where a slum kid steals Todd's cellphone. My sister and my mom, who were watching the movie, clucked their tongues feeling bad at the way a kid was shown stealing. But the kid returns the cellphone in the end, not only that he decorates it with coloured designs.
Todd falls in love with India, like most Indians do.. Even the ones who keep saying - "is desh ka kuch nahi ho sakta", "sab chalta hai", guys who travel in local trains during rush hour, executives who lose precious time stuck in traffic, a beggar at a traffic signal, a couple who cant hold hands coz there are too many people around, a student who applies for MS in the US, an Indian who currently stays in the US but still longs to return - everyone.. everyone.. once in their life, falls in love with this beautiful country.
And so does Todd.. When he gets called over to have lunch in the slum, when his manager brings special American food for him coz his stomach is upset due to all the Indian food, when the slumkid returns his decorated cellphone, when he falls in love with Asha - everytime..., he falls in love with India.
I hoped Slumdog wouldnt win the Oscar. But then it won. I have no problems with it winning the oscar, except this -
20 years down the line, my 15 year old son is gonna come to me and rave about how cool the 1997 Oscar winner Titanic is!!
"Hey Pop! Saw Titanic last night.. 1997 Oscar winner aint it?"
"Yeah, its really cool.. Its a classic"
"I wanna see the 2008 Oscar winner now- Slumdog Millionaire"
I was wondering what would I say - Would I ask him not to watch it coz the movie is a skewed depiction of us or Would I allow him to watch it coz a man needs to form his own opinions.
And what if I do allow and he comes to me asking me - "Pop! You lived in Mumbai right? India was such a Shithole!!"
I would want to tell him that, thats the way a group of smart asses in the West perceived us back then, but not everyone did. If you want to see India through the eyes of unbiased westerner, and dont mind the fact that a bunch of bozos found his view too unscandalous to give it any award - go watch Outsourced
SM will do to people what Cidade did to me. Thankfully Outsourced is around to change their perception.
"Outsourced" soup for the "slumdoged" soul!
Editor in chief arshat chaudharyCurrent Issues: mulund, outsourced, slumdog millionaire