Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Other End of the Line (2008) – A call centre romance!

The Other End Of The Line poster Granger Woodruff (Jesse Metcalfe) is in trouble, deep trouble. Not only is he about to lose a crucial advertising contract, but his latest credit card bills are going to cost him a lot more than several grand in money – he will lose his heart to his credit card company! Strange as this may sound, it is TRUE. All you cute singletons with credit-card problems, read the following and be aware of the evils of your situation.
Granger is at the end of a really bad day. He almost lost a prestigious ad contract for the Hawksin Hotel because hotel supremo Kit Hawksin (Larry Miller) didnt like to see passion onscreen (is he the chairman of the Indian censor board?). And then his credit card company called to let him know that his card was suspended because of suspicious activity in his account!



Its not all bad news though. The company voice at the other end of the line – Jennifer David – is very helpful. She works with him night and day to untangle his jumbled credit. Such close association (even through phone) is bound to lead to err… more association. One thing leads to another and Granger makes a date to see Jennifer in San Fransisco.
What Granger doesnt know is that Jennifer-of-San-Fransisco is really Priya Sethi (Shriya Saran), a bright young Indian woman working at his credit card company’s Bombay call centre. In addition to her brightness, Priya is also blessed with a lively and very romantic imagination. While she guides him through the maze of his credit card bills, she also begins to find out more about him (google search apparently turns up his photo and vital statistics!) and begins to nurse romantic feelings for him. Her helpful friend Zia (Tara Sharma) reminds her often enough of her engagement – to no avail!
After one stifling day spent in the company of her colorless fiancé (Neel Tolani) and his domineering Mom (Vandana Gupte)’s company, Priya decides to take a romantic break in San Fransisco. She flies off to 'Frisco one fine day, leaving a very baffled and worried family behind. What makes her flight so much more romantic is that she doesnt have to deal with visa hassles or any nasty American Immigration officials (a perk of working for Hollywood?!).
So Priya is in 'Frisco to keep Jennifer’s date with Granger, but she chickens out when she sees him. He is too cute to be told 'Jennifer' is Priya-pretending-to-be-an-American-in-Bombay? Luck is on her side, though. She bumps into Granger in a hotel lobby (literally) and he is much struck by her. He asks her out to dinner and gets to know the beautiful nurse Priya, visiting 'Frisco for a family function. Yes, she lies again!
Just when it looks like Granger and Priya might be getting ready to embark on a happily-ever-after, several obstacles simultaneously erupt in the path of their budding romance. Granger’s ex-girl friend Emory (Sara Forster) turns up wanting a reconciliation at the wrong moment. And Priya’s worried parents (Anupam Kher and Sushmita Mukherjee) turn up wanting to drag her back to her suitable marriage. Much drama and comedy ensues before the end credits roll, but I shant tell you anymore. Suffice it to say that there is a very satisfactory ending…
Though I found it a fun romantic comedy with a cute lead pair and great cast (loved seeing my favorite telly actors Sushmita Mukherjee and Vandana Gupte), the more than generous helpings of un-reality grated at times. Since nobody with an Indian passport can cross the American border without dealing with numerous visa hassles (it can sometimes take upto three months to get a US visa!), I just cant swallow Priya and the Sethis’ merry excursions to the US of A. And then there was the Sethi mansion in Bombay that had a big garden attached to it. Did nobody tell the filmmakers that to have such a pad in Bombay, you need to be billionaire? Mr. Sethi was supposed to be a poor, hardworking, insurance salesman and hardly likely to be able to afford a Mannat-sized home!
On the plus side, I loved the vignettes of call-centre education. The “American Studies” instructor has the call-centre employees identifying pictures of American celebrities and checking their knowledge of the kind of burgers made by MacDonalds, Burger King, etc.! And when one employee asks to be transferred out of her New Jersey territory, she is tersely told that, “Everyone starts at New Jersey and works their way out.” Take that New Jersey!
All in all, its a cute romantic comedy and a perfect pick-me-up after a tiring day at work.

25 comments:

  1. I *have* to see this! Thank you, Bollyviewer. I still haven't seen Outsourced which Memsaab recommended several months ago (I have it), so it might be nice to see them back to back, perhaps?

    There are some really crazy and true (and often genuinely funny, depending on which side one is, of course) call center stories out there. Always fun to relate =)

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  2. OMG Old is Gold - what's this I see on your blog? A movie I have actuallly seen! What are the odds? I, however, am not as gushy about this one. It was a nice little American romantic comedy with a little bit of India thrown in there, but very very light. Shriya Saran was good and Jesse Metcalf is always a cutie. I missed the songs though.

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  3. This sounds fantastic - I must try to find it. Every time a heavily accented "Jennifer" or a "Julie" answers my calls to my credit card company, I bite back the temptation to say, सच्च? मैं शम्मी कपुर हूँ! Instead I always close with आपकी मदद के लिए बहुत बहुत शुक्रिया and have often been rewarded with a surprised laugh from the other end. With a cousin in Bangalore I think those poor call centre drones need all the cheer they can get. So this movie looks like a must see.

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  4. This reminded me of about two years back, when I was in Chicago for a project. I was assigned `temp' status for the company for which our company was doing the project. Since they'd take ages to actually complete all their paperwork, an American colleague, who'd been put on their temp list long back, passed on her identity details to me. I had to get my LAN access to the company network activated, so phoned their help line, pretending to be my colleague. Since I didn't put on an American accent, the guy at the other end soon figured out I wasn't American - and was very surprised when I said I was Indian. "An Indian called Jennifer Greene? Wow! That's unusual!" He told me he was in Gurgaon. Sweet, and my telling him I was Indian made him even more helpful.

    Though if I'd told him my actual surname he'd probably not have thought Jennifer Greene was that unusual...

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  5. What no songs, they should have added some in the same way Bride and Prejudice did, it would have been nice to see Jesse doing some bolly moves plus that Shriya Saran looks awfully like Shreyal Goshal the playback singer, is she the one or are they just lookie likies

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  6. Anupam Kher and the kid from "Desperate Housewives" in the same movie? Added to the list of "things I never thought I'd ever see..."

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  7. theBollywoodFan, sounds like you have some interesting call center stories of your own. ;-) I watched Outsourced and this back to back and enjoyed them both - they are great in very different ways. This one is pretty lightweight as Shell points out, but still pretty cute.

    Shell, wonders will never cease! I do write about new movies once in a while - just in case they became Old and Gold! ;-)

    Your criticism is very valid. But for a cute romance and one invoving a call center, I am willing to overlook a lot more! There were plenty of songs (quite pleasant ones too) sprinkled throughout, just not as proper song-sequences. And since I usually forward songs in new films anyway, I was pretty happy!

    maxqnz, call centers recall so many pleasant incidents! I remember calling the HP-computer help-line for some trouble-shooting and got connected to someone in Gurgaon. The rep was was very helpful (and voluble) once he realised I have family there and was actually in Gurgaon a few months before!

    dustedoff, thats a very interesting experience! (The call center rep really wouldnt have believed your actual surname!) Anybody who's lived in North America for any length of time and needed to call a help-line, has some Indian call-center story to recount. :-) I guess thats a large part of this movie's appeal for me.

    bollywooddeewana, the playback singer is a different Shreya and I dont really see much resemblance between the two. You may not see it either, once you've watched this film! And ya, Jesse doing some bolly moves would have been cute. I was re-watching Love Actually the other day, and Hugh Grant's bolly-like dance moves were fun to watch there.

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  8. Anarchivist, I had no idea Jesse Metcalfe was in Desperate Housewives. That does make it one of those unusual things!

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  9. they should have added some in the same way Bride and Prejudice did

    "Bride & Prejudice was a simply AWFUL film with no redeeming features and the wooden performance of my compatriot Martin Henderson was one of the lowest points in that film full of low points. I am VERY happy that the makers of this film did not try to copy B&P. I am really looking forward to getting hold of this one somehow. I note too that Shriya Saran is in the Blue Umbrella, another recent film I've heard good things about.

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  10. Awww, I liked Bride And Prejudice a lot. It was a typical masala romance with all the right ingredients in place and very, very beautiful people. I didnt think Martin Henderson was any more wooden than a masala hero ought to be. (Or maybe I was too busy admiring his dimple to worry about unimportant details like acting?!!) Didnt realise he was from NZ - thought he was American.

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  11. Hmmm. I saw this on the new release shelf of my awesome independent video store a few weeks ago. I resisted because I was less than in love with Outsourced and it just seemed too too similar. But with all the discussion over on Anarchavist's site about versions of self and all, the idea of a heroine who lies not once but twice about her identity is more intriguing.

    And if anyone ever wants to make this story but flip the nationalities (that is, an American girl and an Indian boy), I've got a script to sell them - but they'll need LOTS of kleenex because one of the characters is a lousy hurtful coward. Also, they'll have to convince Shashi out of retirement to provide the UPGRADE at the end like in Ijazaat so that everyone gets the happiness she deserves ;)

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  12. "so that everyone gets the happiness she deserves"

    Thanks for the reminder that, at least among non-desis, y chromosomes are apparently few and far between in bollywood fans.

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  13. That does seem to be the case, at least among those who comment on blogs.

    (I only said "she" because of the particulars of my little tongue-in-cheek comment. Ordinarily I try to be gender neutral grammatically.)

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  14. Beth, you didnt like Outsourced! Why? It did draw a lot on national stereotypes but some of the situations were downright hilarious and very apt. This one is exactly the way Shell describes it in her comment above - "a nice little American romantic comedy with a little bit of India thrown in there, but very very light". I just have a soft spot for India showing up in Hollywood, especially in a romance which also involves a call center!

    Your reverse scenario sounds fun. Could we have SRK play the jerk? I think he'd make such a marvelous jerk. And we can have both Shashi and SRK in one movie, then! ;-)

    maxqnz, even among the desis, I think one needs two X chromosomes to admit to liking Hindi movies! Most of the Indian guys I know here would rather go to the theatres for James Bond (?!!!) than a Hindi movie.

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  15. This looks quite cute! I really, really liked Outsourced, and I think I might enjoy this one (despite not liking Jesse at all when he was on DH). It's always nice to suspend reality for a minute and believe that 2 people with absolutely nothing in common can form a connection over the telephone (or letters, or emails, or anything similarly adorable). And great captions as always! Love the ones about halitosis...

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  16. I remember thinking it felt too indulgent in stereotypes in both directions. But lots of the Euro bloggers loved it, and I'd try it again. Maybe I'll do this one with some non-Bolly friends :)

    And yes, we can have SRK in the film. He can re-work his Rab Ne nerd look for it. Perfect.

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  17. I really, really want to see this now. I hadn't thought it'd be worth a look. Thank you for reviewing it!

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  18. Beth, I want to see that film. Let's figure out who to call up.

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  19. shell - You're on! We'll have to change enough details so I don't get sued for slander. ;) How funny is the idea of going to the cafe at Prithvi Theatre with a script in hand looking for Shashi! In my imagination, it's hilarious; in reality, I'm the most chicken person ever.

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  20. I saw a preview for this once and thought, well, maybe...figured it was either a nightmare or sorta cute...Glad to see it fell in the latter for you!

    Tara Sharma's always putting the kibosh on her friends romantic rendevous, isn't she? First in "Fanaa" now in this...ha ha.

    Having worked in a call centre before (eek! NEVER again, even though I could have been blog reading all day long), I'd probably get a kick out of this. Thanks for reviewing.

    But where have I seen Priya before? She looks so familiar...

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  21. Daddy's Girl, it IS nice to suspend reality for a phone/email/letter romance. Besides, "love conquers all", so I am sure they will live happily-ever-after after falling for each other through lies/contrivances! ;-)

    Beth, Outsourced was rather indulgent in streotypes, but I felt that the stereotypes were affectionately drawn and the film wasnt looking down on any of them. And SRK can just re-work his DDLJ/KKHH jerk persona - that is nasty enough for me!

    ajnabi, I was apprehensive about it too. The results of Bolly-Holly cross-pollination arent always great, but this one was quite cute.

    shell, me too!

    Beth, no gain without pain. If you want your upgrade, you have to make the effort! Maybe some Dutch-courage will help?

    Nida, judging by the movies, none of her friends takes Tara's advice - which is great here, but Kajol should have listened to her!

    You didnt like working in a call center? Judging by Priya's story, I think we should all give it a try! ;-)

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  22. By sheer coincidence, I came across this shortly after reading your review, and just watched it last night - I quite enjoyed it although I found the bits with Priya's family a little tiresome... and for once, I actually liked Jesse Metcalf. Shriya did a very good job too. And I loved all the footage of Mumbai. There were some things I would have done differently (and I definitely agree with you about the unrealistic plane-hopping), but I thought it was a pretty decent watch. You're right, sometimes cute and romantic is enough. Thanks for the recommendation!

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  23. Daddy's Girl, I am so glad you enjoyed it. Priya's family was a bit tiresome and there were all those unexplained women in their house (one of whom even makes it to the States with them) that the film could have done without. I loved the dash of Bombay too, even though it looks prettier and less crowded than it does in real life!

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  24. Yeah this was a cute movie, and I agree with Shell...a new movie on Old is Gold?!?!?! lolz

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  25. It isnt new, its one whole year OLD! ;-)

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