John & Janee

Ashim Ahluwalia.

India 2005, 83 min.

John & Jane  opens with the lights and action of Times Square in New York City. The bright signs advertising international products symbolize the American love of money, marketing and capitalism-the principles at the core of this film on outsourcing -while halfway across the world, Indian call centres do a brisk business.

It is a world often wondered about but rarely seen. Vast, fluorescent-lit rooms are filled with cubicles separated by the regions from where calls originate (California, New York, Kentucky). The employees work midnight shifts to match American business hours. The workers adopt American names like Glen and Sydney. In a class, taught by a woman with a thick southern-American accent, they learn to lose their Indian accents. Some are customer service representatives, acting as helpful ears for people’s problems and requests. Others are not so lucky. They are employed to persistently hawk products that they don’t even understand, like an 8-piece pancake ring set. Sydney, one such caller, tries to offer an emergency medical system”. You can hear the frustration on the other end of the line as the listener’s inquiries into what the product is are met with Sydney’s unknowing (and somewhat uncaring) answer: “It’s a medical system for emergencies.”

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