"Outsourced" soup for the "slumdoged" soul!

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?
Todd(bewildered): Good?
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!SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

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26 letters to the editor:

    On March 18, 2009 at 5:28 AM     
    Balaji said...

    Arshat, I cant believe the prejudiced Indian media and your skewed perception of Slumdog Millionaire made you write this blog. I watched the first screening of slumdog millionaire, here in my city and I can tell you that it deserves all the oscars it won. Sure, it shows only the slums of Mumbai, but thats what the movie is about...a rags to riches story! Why did you not mention the one scene in outsourced where Todd's car is stuck because of a cow on the road? Has that ever happened to you in mulund? Isn't that also a stereotypical depiction of India? Don't take the liberty to trash a movie if you do not understand it. I concede that slumdog takes some creative liberties in depicting reality, but that is exactly what most movies do! I think we as Mumbaikars need to wake up to the fact that we live in a city riddled with poverty where almost 50% of the population lives in thickly populated slums with inadequate access to water or proper sanitary facilities. It will bode well for our future to take hints from SM & work towards making Mumbai a better city than spend time criticizing Danny Boyle for bringing the ugly underbelly of this city to light.

    there are so many lines in this article....which u wrote in such simple terms..but brings out an intense issue with so much sensitivity and simplicity....
    esp..."everyone.. once in their life, falls in love with this beautiful country."...
    and yea...ur children(read..sons and DAUGHTERS)will be real lucky..if u actually allow them to grow up with "form ur own opinion" sorta philosophy.....
    9997 and ticking......

    that is what i felt when i saw slumdog millionaire too..no one can take a movie on india and show all its aspects..i mean, kerala and mumbai are two very different places, yet part of the same country,right?

    yep. here even exceptions run into millions!! rightly said.
    wil watch the movie.

    Firstly, this blogpost is not about SM alone. Its more about Outsourced's comparison with SM. This post is about how good movies can be made without exploiting a country's image. And had it been only about SM, trust me, I would have come up with it around the time it won the Oscars, I didnt!

    About that scene in Outsourced where Todd's car gets stuck : That has never happened to me in Mulund. But that has happened to me in Indore, Ujjain, Lucknow and Wardha. Since that scene was set in a Tier 2 city, it was acceptable. I would have found it weird if they had shown it happening in Dadar!

    I agree with the fact that a large number of people in Mumbai live in "thickly populated slums with inadequate access to water or proper sanitary facilities." I have stated in the post itself! They have projected us like a Third world country and I have no problems with that. But we are NOT ONLY that!

    Lets make it easier for you... Give me one positive in SM and we will end at it..

    Did you know Mercedes Benz took offence to the scene where Manjrekar(the slumlord) is shown travelling in a Benz?? Why cant a slumlord in India afford a Benz?
    Thats what the Germans have and we Indians dont!- Nationalism. It hurts them even when their cars are shown in bad light. We dont have any problem even when our country is shown in bad light!

    No offence, but its easy to live in US, eat their food, watch their news, dream their dreams and then think the Indians are overreacting to a movie which depicts them in poor light... For people like me, well, my nationalist sentiments are still in place...

    DAUGHTERS? you have to mention them, dont ya! :P

    @damsel in distress
    hmm.. good point.. India is almost the world within a country.. so many different ppl, so many languages, so many dialects!

    On March 18, 2009 at 5:27 PM     
    Nupur said...

    Will have see Outsourced now... had read a review about the same in the paper which completely ripped apart the movie...Guess, will have to form an opinion myself!!

    About SM... I guess it was too over-rated...but a tad less than Frieda Pinto!! Guess to change the West's perception about Mumbai...someone needs to make a movie on 26/7....we do have a heart....!!

    On March 18, 2009 at 6:01 PM     
    Balaji said...

    @Arshat: I am sure my national loyalties are still very much in place. I am just amazed at how effectively the Indian media has been able to brainwash Indians into thinking that SM is a BAD movie. Realize that the story itself is about the rise of a poverty-ridden Muslim boy, struggling to survive and trying to find lost love. Where exactly does this screenplay require Danny Boyle to show emerging India??

    Again, I was the first screening here and when the movie was over, all the firangs stood up and clapped for a good minute (Who has ever done that in a movie?). Honestly, I was touched to see the kind of response the movie got here.

    There are some scenes in the movie that are almost heart-rendering such as the blinding of the young boy by the begging mafia. I have, myself, been at so many signals in Mumbai & shooed away all these blind & handicapped kids that beg without even realizing that they were blinded or disfigured inhumanely.

    Unfortunately, we take the liberty to block out all our negatives and focus only on the positives. Sure, we have made great strides in every field over the last 10 years and yet there remains a great divide between the haves and the have-nots. I feel proud to have been in an India which has challenged world's perception in everything from aviation to computers and won and yet, I am saddened by its utter loss at trying to overcome poverty. I don't think we are at a point yet, where we can dissociate India and poverty. It is a harsh piece of reality that stares us in the face.

    Eventually, I guess, we can agree to disagree....you would always like to hate SM for what it doesn't show and I would like SM for what it opens our eyes to....

    Yeah, SM was grossly over-rated. We have made better movies in the past.
    Outsourced is good. The reviews I read werent good either. That is why I didnt watch it in a theatre. But its a good movie. You ll like it. :)

    Well, I saw the movie in the second week. And if you thought Indian media is against SM, then let me tell you that it has got 5 star rating on every newspaper!! Indian actors(most of them who expect a call from Hollywood in the near future) are going ga-ga over a relatively mediocre movie.

    About the firangs clapping for a good one minute, obviously they will!! I ask - Would they still clap if the movie was set in the poor areas of Britian or in the ghettos of US??!! Searching for an answer? They wouldnt!!!

    They just found it easier to accept the fact that boys steal food hanging down from a train, they steal the tyres of a Merc which belongs to American tourists, people live in dirt poor conditions coz it was set in a third world country.

    The reason it was set in India and not some other country is coz the India story is big, I am sure no one can deny that. 100 people losing their jobs in India will make a bigger headline than 100 soldiers killed in Somalia.

    I agree the screenplay no where demands emerging India to be shown. But why do all characters in the movie, including the actor Prem(Anil Kapoor) have to be negative?? Why does every character have to be a thief, a gangster, a slumlord or worse still an inept bpo employee?!

    About the poor kids who beg at signals, dont tell me you didnt already know how they landed up there! There are a lotta movies made on those themes.

    I agree that India and poverty can yet not be dissociated. Infact I have no problems if the World views us as a third world country. I just dont like it when they say we are only that! I dislike it more when a bunch of smartasses award them for saying that.

    Well, I dont need some firang to open my eyes to the poverty around me, I very much know it exists. I would appreciate if they kept this eye-opening thingy limited to their own ghettos. We are a huge country and we are trying our best to overcome our shortcomings. They can make movies on us if they want, but I would like them to keep their skewed ideas to themselves.

    I watched the movie in a packed house, no one got up to clap here. The max most of them could mutter up was that it was a good movie. Most of them were confused as to what was the fuss about!

    Well, now if only I knew!!

    On March 19, 2009 at 12:47 AM     
    Sarath said...

    Hi there,

    Seen outsourced long time back.. Liked the movie.. I agree, slumdog didn't deserve those 10 oscars, but it had all the masala, which a typical oscar winner has..

    On March 19, 2009 at 1:40 AM     
    Harish said...

    Well, well..nice arguement on here.
    And hey Arshat, u stole my idea in that India v/s Somalia thing!!

    All I can say is Outsourced tried to put a goody-goody touch to the
    negatives of India while SM left it a lot raw. Further, The White Tiger leaves it totally naked.

    Frankly when 90 crore people in India earn less than $2 a day, we are not at a position to ask why did u not show the good things about India. Why should they? I know being an Indian it pains to see the bad things. But emotions apart,tell me when has Bollywood ever made any movie on this 90 crore population. If we criticise the West, we are actually more at fault in the sense that we tend to glorify the very few positives and they glorify the all-too-common negatives.

    Related read:

    On March 19, 2009 at 9:15 AM     
    Ashish said...

    Slumdog..... was never a movie which looks like an oscar winning one :)

    The fact is there are many movies which shows the poverty of India in a better way.....

    The movie also tries to defame India....and so its not wise......it fails to leave a good message :)

    I'd probably see "outsourced"

    hmm..i see..

    Well, the secret to creativity is not letting the source known :P. To be honest I didnt realis I had read it thr..

    90 crore people earning less than $2??! no way mate.. The figures are wrong. According to Icfai univ press, only 40 crores earn less $2(roughly Rs.90). If you take PPP into consideration, it will be still lesser.

    I do agree that we usually make escapist cinema, but there are numerous movies made on poverty from "do bigha zamin" in BnW to Dharavi, Salaam Bombay, there are numerous Amol Palekar movie which higlights the then emerging middle class' plight. In the recent times we have had Traffic Signal and Chandini Bar. I think these many movies are enough.

    I dont think they are right when they show only the negatives about a country they dont know nothing about. I would have be cool had they done something like that about Brazil, that would be fine. A lot of ppl in the west know about Brazil.

    Who said the positives are very few? What country has made it big after 400 years of foreign rule? Name one! You cant compare us to Germany and such, since they were never ruled by other, neither are they as big as we are, in size. Look at Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan. Not one country can match up to us. It was the vision of few of our leaders and our hard work that we have reached here. I know poverty is prevelant. But that is how the social makeup of our country is!

    Atleast we are more stable as an economy. According to recent reports by the IMF, 1 out of 2 Americans is bound to fall below the poverty line atleast once in his life.

    For a country that is the size of a continent, doesnt have oil reserves, and has got independence recently in historic terms, we havent done too bad for ourselves.

    On March 19, 2009 at 9:42 PM     
    aroop said...

    @ Arshat and Balaji

    To settle the debate over slumdog millionaire, just be honest to yourself, and for a minute take out all the media hype for it or brainwash against it, forget that it was ever nominated for oscars or released worldwide, whatever suits your way..

    and think would slumdog crorepati even win a filmfare?

    End of the day you have to realise it had what every foreigner who has never been to India thinks about India and it lacks so much more of Mumbai what every proud Mumbaiite knows exists..

    It's a movie made by a foreigner for the foreign audience..

    Hence the two extreme positions...

    On March 19, 2009 at 9:45 PM     
    aroop said...

    To add "Cidade de deus" is a great example arshat mentioned.. So many Brasilians took exception to that movie while it was being raved by the world wide audience..

    On March 19, 2009 at 10:03 PM     
    Sree said...

    Loved the post...will watch the movie!! :)

    On March 19, 2009 at 11:17 PM     
    Nikita said...

    What a post and what a review! I so want to watch this movie now. Will definitely catch it soon.
    And I second you about Slumdog

    On March 20, 2009 at 3:06 PM     
    Bullshee said...

    Hey, I thought Slumdog was an exceptional movie!!!

    Maybe not because of the storyline, but because of the top-notch direction and the kick ass music.

    But so what's the big deal? They show Mumbai to be a shit hole. It is a shit hole. Mumbai may have some very resilient, hospitable residents. But it is still a shit hole - dirty and ravaged by poverty which can't be solved because the politicians want those votes.

    And you're right - the rest of India isn't like that. Kerala is a lovely state, full of natural beauty and relatively clean. But what I don't get is why people care what a bunch of firangs think about our country. So they think its a dirty shithole! Big F-in' deal! When we take all their jobs, they won't be thinking that any more.

    Won't it suck if India/Mumbai is still a shithole when your son sees it 20 years in the future??

    Excuse the cynisicsm. I've been reading too much Cyanide and Happiness at explosm.net!!

    Yeah! Thr r many movies which have shown India's poverty without hurting the sentiments of its people..

    "It's a movie made by a foreigner for the foreign audience.." thank you! I rest my case.

    You should!

    Thanks. Its a good movie, go watch it..


    A movie has to be exceptional coz it has a kickass screenplay(which SM didnt!).If movies were exceptional because of its music or its cinematography, then DIL SE (SRK, Manisha Koirala) has to be the best movie of the century! :P

    And no, Mumbai is not a shithole. I do agree there are some really dirty areas, but then there are a lot of pretty ones too. Bandra Bandstand, Marine drive, Malabar hill, some areas of Andheri west, Juhu, Mulund, Vikhroli, Powai, Colaba.. I can go on and on!

    Coming to Kerala's beauty, well I havent been there to commnet, but what I see in the pics and travel shows, its very pretty.
    But then the state has to be pretty if its main industry is Tourism!! :P

    Also take into account tht there are more ppl living in Mumbai and Kalyan combined than there are in all of Kerala! :P
    It has to be clean!!

    Actually Mumbai alone has more ppl than Kerala, since half of the mallus are working in the gulf! :D

    Think of putting these many ppl in any corner of India (including Kerala) and I will be impressed if they do a job even half as good as Mumbai did :)

    I havent read a lot at explosm.net (which by the look of it is fun) so I aint tht cynical yet. I think 20 yrs down the line, Mumbai will be pretier than it already is. :)

    hey arshat, nice blog...
    i hv nt seen outsourced yet.. but will surely watch it soon..
    nw abt slumdog, i hv watched dat muvi & 2 b frank i hv enjoyed it.. it was a decent entertainin muvi...
    but thn again, d way india is shwn in dat muvi doesnt show somethin gr8 abt us...
    i m in usa rite nw, & aftr dat muvi was a big hit in usa, i hv recieved some vague reactions here...
    whn some ppl c us, they ask hv u seen d muvi SM, v say yes.. they say its a nice muvi.. v say its a decent muvi, but v make better muvis in india..
    they say rehman is gud.. his music was gud.. v say if rehman got oscar 4 jai ho, thn he deserved an oscar every yr 4 his wrk..
    thr r some who discriminate us.. like d other day my frnd was called a slumdog @ wrk by an amru.. whn 1 of my frnd hrd dis & askd him wat did he say, he was like nthn dude.. chill...
    so dis muvi has mixed reactions...
    but @ d end of it, v can b a little proud of d fact dat some indian things hv started gettin recognition nw.. rehman is god... he deserved an oscar.. a little late, but he got it... though SM showed india in bad lite, still it was an entertainer.. 4 a change, d indian police is shown 2 b d hero in d end whn irrfan sends d boy 2 go 4 d last question again.. dats some gud lite 4 our system...
    & lastly, dis is basically a luv story whr in like every other indian muvi luv always triumphs...
    also d hero's brother lets her go in d end which makes him too d hero in d end.. dis is another image transformation..
    so thr r some parts whr india/indians r shown in gud lite..
    but thn again, v can say dat d bad lite is more thn d gud lite...

    On March 26, 2009 at 10:15 AM     
    Chriz said...

    now i need to catch up with this movie... sounds interesting.. that is how reviews should be written for movies rather than breaking the whole plot and narrating the whole story.. sooper cool stuff..

    i wanna play holi.. no one plays at my place

    On March 26, 2009 at 10:17 AM     
    Chriz said...

    and i loved the movie slum dog millionnaire... there were criticisms on it .. agreed.. but it was money's worth for me.. i dint see it from who was the director! point of view... i just saw it from my angle.. i loved the screen play.. twas good.

    I loved outsourced! and I didnt like slum dog!

    hey..urm, i saw outsourced on starmovies today..i didnt catch the first part..but i saw enough to love the movie..yes, very much different from slumdog, but both are India itself. still,i guess am more familiar with the "outsourced" India. arranged marriages, holi....just because someone is from a slum doesnt mean he/she is a thief or someone whom we can't trust...

    liked both slumdog and outsourced. slumdog coz of the intensity with which it was filmed, outsourced for its sincerity in portraying India...thanx for recommending it.


    Dude...ur blog is freakin awesome! Loved the recent post as well...