The Other End Of The Line

May 11, 2009

Till a few years ago, India’s claim to fame used to be Taj Mahal (For most people the one in Agra. The Beer for some others), spicy food, cows, snake charmers, and poor, naked people. The past decade has added another important entry to this list. Call centers. Millions of Indians working late night shifts answering customers’ calls are the new face of India.

They speak flawless English with American accents. They may be sitting in Gurgaon but go by Michael, Jennifer, or Elizabeth. They sleep in the day and work at night. They may be thousands of miles from America, they most often have never even been to the country, but spend most of their time talking to Americans. The brave men and women of Indian Call Centers.

Is it possible for these people to lose perspective along the way? Is it possible for them to start identifying more with American culture and ethos as compared to the country where they actually live?

More interestingly, is it possible for them to actually fall for the people they talk to over the phone?

That is the plot of the 2008 movie The Other End of the Line. The movie was co-produced by Ashok Amritraj, and a joint effort between Adlabs and MGM.

Priya Sethi (Shriya Saran) works at a call center for a bank. Priya by day, Jennifer by night.

Now we must add here that this is the perfect call center. The agents speak in perfect American accents, and are taught all about American culture to enable them to better identify with their clients. From experience, I haven’t seen that happen often. More often than not, calls to Banks/Technical help desks are answered at Indian call centers, and their quality of service has often left a lot to be desired. The English isn’t great, nor is the level of expertise.

Not at this call center. They have classes where they are trained in identifying American celebrities, or that Wendy’s is the chain that makes square burgers, while Burger King is the home of the whopper.

Priya is the star of these classes - the teachers’ pet. She has a few conversations with Mr America Granger Woodriff (Jesse Metcalfe) regarding credit card issues. They develop a connection, and soon Granger asks her out for a ‘coffee’. He has no clue that she lives in India. All he knows is that she is Jennifer David from San Fransisco.

To make things more interesting, Priya is engaged to this guy who wants her to just settle down after marriage, and spend her time raising their kids. But she decides to have one last adventure, and travels to San Fransisco to meet Granger. (How she got a visa was a detail conveniently ignored. Ask us NRIs - visas are the detail you can never afford to ignore.) They fall in love, there is some family drama, the father hits Granger at one point, Granger travels to India for Priya, Priya asserts herself and calls off her engagement, bla bla bla.

All’s well in the end, and the happy family offers aloo paranthas to their American soon-to-be-son-in-law.

Time for a cliche check.

1. Arranged marriage where the girl has no choice but to marry the goofball groom of the family’s choice. Check.
2. Hyper Indian parents who seem like they will collapse at any hint of a problem. Check.
3. American semi-crazy relatives who live in New Jersey and own a Mercedes. Check.
4. Indian cab driver when Mr America gets into a cab. Check.

I fail to understand why everybody keeps maligning arranged marriages. I had one, and couldn’t be happier with my life. I would like to believe that the days where marriages were forced on young men and women are gone. It just didn’t feel right to see Anupam Kher reduced to a brooding father whose only concern is to get his daughter married into this rich family because it will be good for his family.

This movie reminded me of two movies. The first one is Outsourced, in which the American hero is sent to India to setup a call center, and falls in love with an employee. The other movie was My Bollywood Bride where another American hero travels to India to meet (and marry) Kashmira Shah. Both fascinating movies. This one, not so much.

The Other End of the Line is an interesting movie. The concept is strong and very relevant, but could have been done much better. Watch it if you have a couple hours and nothing better to do with your life.

And I wrote this entire post while on hold on a call to American Express. Speaking to Paul, from Hyderabad.

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24 Responses to “ The Other End Of The Line ”

  1. Philip on May 11, 2009 at 3:35 am

    i thought Outsourced was a pretty decent movie, though it was also full of clichés. I would rather watch Shriya in a Tamil or Telugu movie. At least i can drool over her dhinchak dhinchak songs and dances. *lol*

  2. Smitha on May 11, 2009 at 6:43 am

    That was interesting! And I absolutely loved your ‘cliche check’ :) It irritates me to see these cliches :( And you are so right, it is time that people realise that the arranged marriage where it is absolutely forced on the bride and groom is one of the past - atleast, most definitely, in the urban areas.. Will try and catch this movie - sounds interesting, all the same :)

  3. some body on May 11, 2009 at 7:32 am


    though not a cliche …

    5. hello oscars! check ;-)

    any visa details would’ve affected the movie’s chances, just like any biden speech - or a dijon mustard hungama - affects the public’s obama infatuation!

    - s.b.

  4. Mahendra on May 11, 2009 at 7:45 am

    Thanks for the review! I liked the cliche check too; wonderful idea to include in a review…maybe I’ll steal it? :-)

    I happened to stumble on Outsourced while flipping through channels and was a bit pleasantly surprised. Didn’t see it completely though, maybe I will next time.

  5. kavi on May 11, 2009 at 7:45 am

    What a plot ! hmm ! The visa troubles and arranged marriage benefits are to be experienced to be understood i guess !!

    Outsourcing is under pressure ! This film plot seems to add to it !


  6. R.D.B. on May 11, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Interesting Post .
    I do agree visa woes and cheers of arranged Marriage are to be experienced …less said better… All these stereotypes are a definite turnoff.
    I liked the cliche check …

  7. Reema on May 11, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    Will check out the movie.

  8. amit on May 11, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    I liked the promo. Something worth picking up.
    By the way, I have never heard of the movie. And that is strange. Was it released in India?

  9. sabrina on May 11, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    That’s awesome that you picked up on the visa thing — hahaha. Yeah, like it was THAT easy for her to get to San Fran:)
    I like how you mentioned that you’re happy in your married life:)
    This movie is def. full of cliches, but I can’t help but kind of want to see it. But since your post made me smile, maybe I’ll wait until it’s out on DVD. That way, I won’t feel like I’m doing your blog a disservice:)

  10. Solilo on May 11, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    I read about it long back at Hitchwriter’s blog. Yet to catch it.

    “And I wrote this entire post while on hold on a call to American Express. Speaking to Paul, from Hyderabad.”

    Ha..ha..ha.. AD, you mean Pollanna.

  11. Poonam on May 12, 2009 at 12:29 am

    I have watched Outsourced (missed some parts regretably) on HBO, but it was entertaining. It had its humorous moment. I was not aware of this movie, since you don’t recommend it anyway, is there any point in trying to catch up? :P

  12. The Quirky Indian on May 12, 2009 at 4:13 am

    LOL! The cliché check was brilliant! And so was the last line…..

    But Amex? Dude, you need to learn to leave home without it. :-)


    Quirky Indian

  13. amreekandesi on May 12, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    @Philip - Yes Outsourced was a much better movie, though it also had many cliches going, especially the arranged marriage stuff.

    @Smitha - Thanks.

    @SomeBody - Good point about visa correlation with Oscars, though i dont see this one getting any.

    @Kavi - :)

    @Mahendra - Thanks. Glad you liked the cliche check. Feel free to use it, as long as i get my royalty (just kidding!). Outsourced was a fun movie, from what i remember.

    @RDB - Thanks, and welcome to Amreekandesi!

    @Reema - :)

    @Amit - I watched the promo after watching the movie, and i must say the promo makes it look like a fascinating plot. My gripe is that its just too bollywoody dramatic.
    This movie was released last year apparently. I had never heard the name till i saw it in a shelf at Blockbuster. But given that a Bollywood production house was involved, i would think that it must have been released in India.

    @Sabrina - Thanks, and welcome to Amreekandesi! The movie is out on DVD already - that’s how i saw it. Also, i didn’t mean to trash the movie. It could have been done better, but its an interesting plot nevertheless. You will not be doing this review any disservice by watching the movie ;) Go for it!

    @QI - Thanks.

    As for Amex - i don’t even use my card. I am all Chase!

  14. Dinesh on May 12, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Very nice review and totally agree on the cliches, they always love to just show the same extremes over and over and over again. How about showing a normal Indian Family in a normal way! never happens! Will watch this once I have some time to waste :) I am yet to watch Outsourced and Bollywood bride though!

  15. amlistening on May 12, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    I read this again today! Was having a terrible headache and wanted to take a break with a strong cup of tea. This goes in my best articles read “Hall of fame”!…I used to re-read Karan Thapar( like this.

  16. amreekandesi on May 12, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    @Dinesh - Thanks! I guess there is no fun in showing mundane stuff. At least they didnt show Anupam Kher to be a snake charmer! :D

    @AmListening - Aww…thats so sweet. Pretty cool to be compared to a Karan Thapar!

  17. ruSh.Me on May 13, 2009 at 12:37 am

    Nope, It hasn’t released in India… I saw Outsourced at a movie hall and was wondering where else I could have spent those 250 bucks??

    Cliches are a part of Bollywood, in fact Indian movie industry thrives on it.. A few like “Luck by chance” do make a parody of the cliche in a cliched sense and gather all the accolades..!!

    Outsourced had it’s fun moments which were hilarious.. but the ending and the one-night stand is too ahem.. cliched..!! Visas are tricky and until unless you give your mentor’s name as Brad Pitt, it’s unlikely, your visa would be done in a single attempt.. In my earlier firm, a group of us had to go to the NY office for some promotional work for just 3 weeks!! We had everything, invitations etc etc.. yet it took us 3 interviews to get that thing.. :(

    I would like to believe that the days where marriages were forced on young men and women are gone.” I hate to break it to you, but it still does.. not to all but still to many!!! :)

  18. shail on May 13, 2009 at 1:57 am

    Interesting. The cliche check was well done. It irritates me no end to see them in movies.
    “I would like to believe that the days where marriages were forced on young men and women are gone.” Yeah, I would like to believe so too. But I know the reality is nowhere near what I would like to believe. Just because some kids obediently marry the persons chosen by their parents does not mean that it is not ‘forced’ on them. They have been brought up that way, to not ‘think’ but accept parents choice. Period. They don’t ‘think’ for themselves in any way. …And yes, this happens even in ‘urban’ areas as well. Saying it does not is just turning a blind eye to things.
    There is nothing wrong with arranged marriages per se if that is what the individual wants. I have had one too as there was no other choice during my days. And it has worked for me. But that is pure chance. Anyone knows that. It does not stop me from the reealisation that ‘arranged’ by other grown ups, be they your own parents, is NOT how marriages should happen. Strictly my personal opinion of course.

  19. amreekandesi on May 13, 2009 at 2:45 am

    @rush.Me - Yea…what would a movie be without some cliches!

    Three interviews to get the visa! Whoa!!

    @Shail - Thanks. Glad you liked the post.

    Thanks for the points on arranged marriage. I’d say there’s all types of cases, but the idea of someone (parents, friends etc) initiating contact, and then the couple taking it from there to see if they would be comfortable with each other might work pretty well.
    Won’t go into too much detail - I guess that’s another blog post altogether! :)

  20. Mysoul on May 15, 2009 at 2:34 am

    I enjoyed “Outsourced” very much.. Will be putting this one under the “Must see” list. The cliche’s are like the standard masala formulas.. Yeah they are fun to watch the first time and then its like beating mashed potatoes to make it more mashed.

    No matter what kind of marriage a person has, its still a lot of work. So to me its what works for the couple.

  21. amreekandesi on May 16, 2009 at 12:45 am

    @Mysoul - I agree with you on all these points!

  22. abhaas on September 13, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    can someone give the list of songs used in this movie????? please

  23. AndThenWhatt on October 30, 2015 at 9:39 pm

    This movie sucked @ss. I worked for an Indian company at General Electric. Ironically a job that outsourced when I worked there back in 1996. After being self employed in the music industry for 10 years, I went back to supplement my music biz. To get in I had to go through an Indian company. A. There English and accents were horrible. It wasn’t fair because everything is judged on English but they really got abused by GE customers in the US, even Indians in America talked bad about them smh. B. Just curious, why do Indians (not all) but a lot cozy up to their former white oppressors? If they marry outside of their race it’s almost always white, upward mobility thinking. Even the most famous movie about Ghandi fighting for your freedom was played by an English Actor (in all fairness his father was Indian but it’s not all that apparent to me at least)

    This movie left me wondering whether it was written by a white or an Indian and from my experiences I really couldn’t tell the difference.

    Favorite Indian based movie is definitely “Mississippi Masala”. Explored a lot of these stereotypes about how Indians view themselves, whites and other races, especially blacks. Worth a watch. They could burn this movie.

  24. John F on August 9, 2016 at 3:33 am

    I loved this movie - nice light-hearted romance. What bothered me is the credits and seeing Granger’s name at the very top of the list of actors, and then seeing Priya’s name further down after some waiter’s. After laughing and crying during the movie, that was a little bit of a sad ending.

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