Bombay Calling


We all love “Glengarry Glen Ross”, with its desperate salesmen being harangued by Alec Baldwin (” You can’t close the leads you’re given, you can’t close shit, you ARE shit, hit the bricks pal and beat it ’cause you are going out!”), right? Or how about Boiler Room, where it’s Affleck delivering the pep talk (“And there is no such thing as a no sale call. A sale is made on every call you make. Either you sell the client some stock or he sells you a reason he can’t. Either way a sale is made, the only question is who is gonna close? You or him?”)? Now imagine the same kind of close-or-die attitude and add brown skin and a Hindi accent and you got an idea of the peculiar pleasure one gets from watching this new documentary from the directors of “Discordia”.

“Bombay Calling” is a look at the phenomenon of western corporations outsourcing their call centres to India, where the workers don’t always speak perfect English but are generally more motivated, as they’re often earning a livelihood for their whole family. It’s personal for them… and they’re much cheaper, obviously. Still, they make more money than most of the people around them and after working hard, they get to party hard, too. The film is a look at globalization from the inside, as developing nations get a taste of all-out capitalism, and it also allows us to get to know a few call centre employees and their backgrounds. They often come from small villages to get jobs in Bombay, a huge and dense city “full of life but also full of death”, where millionaires coexist with people living in shantytowns.

Samir Mallal and Ben Addelman direct the movie with a sure hand, acknowledging the occasional silliness of their subjects while always remaining affectionate towards them, never becoming mean-spirited. It’s actually pretty sad when after the initial booming business, we watch these guys plummet and face the risk of being fired if they can’t make more sales. On a brighter note, “Bombay Calling” is driven by a lively score by DJ Ram and features great clips from Bollywood flicks “Main Hoon Na”, “Dil Se” and “Crocodile Dundee 2” (!).

The NFB & Film Pop, in association with Mongrel Media, present two Montreal screenings of this award-winning documentary on August 22 at 7 and 9 pm at the Cinema ONF (1564 St-Denis Street, Montreal).