Hollywood Turns an Eye on India
temple at sunset - Khajuraho

Hollywood Turns an Eye on India

Bollywood is cranking out movies by the barrel-load (probably to feed the supply of Indian actors-turned politicians).  Although set in India, they don’t exactly convey what it’s like for a foreigner to visit the subcontinent; certainly there’s a truism to that across cultures; what one sees in a Hollywood blockbuster, after all, isn’t exactly a mirror of everyday life in the US; similarly, Bollywood isn’t a perfect reflection of a typical life in India.  Hollywood’s foray into India – the treatment of the East through the eyes of the West – has been understandably limited.  Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi (1982) is a possible exception although it is an Indian story about Indians.  George Stevens’s 1939 film, Gunga Din (based partly on a poem by Rudyard Kipling) mixes Indian and non-Indian characters but in a plot that doesn’t exactly resonate with the realities on the ground today:

In 19th century India, three British soldiers and a native waterbearer must stop a secret mass revival of the murderous Thuggee cult before it can rampage across the land.

However, Wes Anderson (The Life Aquatic, Royal Tenenbaums) has set his latest film, The Darjeeling Limited (currently making the rounds at the festival circuit) in modern India.  This week’s New Yorker has a review of The Darjeeling Limited (which, frankly, is a bit kinder than most of the critics so far).  (Watch the DL trailer.)  I’m not sure if one can issue a spoiler alert for a movie review but I’ll caution you anyway … Anthony Lane draws the parallel between the romance of train travel and the journey a viewer makes from start to finish in a movie, he notes that the “mood of the film is blithe, and its coloration peacock-bright ” and, finally, he summarizes the movie as “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the East.”  That seems to be good advice when visiting India.

That same theme could probably be found in Outsourced, which describes itself as:

A modern day comedy of cross-cultural conflict and romance. Todd Anderson (Josh Hamilton) spends his days managing a customer call center in Seattle until his job, along with those of the entire office, are outsourced to India. Adding insult to injury, Todd must travel to India to train his new replacement. As he navigates through the chaos of Bombay and an office paralyzed by constant cultural misunderstandings, Todd yearns to return to the comforts of home. But it is through his team of quirky yet likable Indian call center workers … that Todd realizes that he too has a lot to learn – not only about India and America, but about himself. He soon discovers that being outsourced may be the best thing that ever happened to him.

NBC has just ordered a pilot of the movie to become a sitcom.  The quirky cross-cultural cinema-to-TV move didn’t exactly work for My Big Fat Greek Wedding (which became My Big Fat Greek Life on TV) but maybe NBC will get lucky this time.  There must be other American sitcoms that have been set in foreign countries for their entirety (as opposed to shows that did the requisite special where they traveled to London) but none come to mind immediately; I have to think that if Outsourced takes off, it will be rather unique in bringing an out-of-American setting to American small screens every week.

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