Outsourced: A Film about an Expat, Reviewed by an Expat

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India; it is a dynamic, tightly-packed nation that supports a culturally diverse population. Among the almost 1.5 billion people that make up its diverse cities and towns, thousands of expats inhabit these spaces. 

The 2006 film Outsourced documents American call center manager Todd (Josh Hamilton) as he becomes a hesitant expat close to Mumbai, India. Todd’s objective, as given by his American boss, is to train low-paid Indian employees in operating a new call center for the company, American Novelty Products. 

Josh Hamilton as Todd in Outsourced (2006) 

Quickly upon Todd’s arrival in India, the cultural differences are made clear to the audience. He is hesitantly pushed into an open-air taxi, eats street food that makes him terribly ill, and sits down on the train only to have the young boy who offered him a seat, sit on top of his lap. 

The call center Todd is required to lead starkly contrasts the skyscraper office he was used to in the United States. In India, Todd begins to advise his eager trainees within the confines of a concrete block that appears as if it is in its first stages of construction. As his journey within the call center begins, Todd’s boss makes his expectations clear: lower the average length of a sales call from twelve minutes to six. Surely, it is an impossible task. 

The film plays on the cultural differences between Todd and his optimistic trainees as soon as he arrives. The trainees mistakenly call him, “Mr. Toad,” which Todd attempts to correct repeatedly. They laugh about the meaning of Wisconsin cheese hats, “schmucks”, and “rednecks” as the employees attempt to sell the patriotic American products.

Before long, a star employee named Asha (Ayesha Dharker) stands out among the trainees. Dharker breathes fresh air into Asha’s character. She is both a kind friend and a rewarding resource to the American-centric Todd. She is eager to surpass her job expectations and enlightens Todd on how to improve the sales call time through an alternative approach with the trainees. She reveals the importance of learning about India and not just teaching Indian employees about the United States. During the entire film, Asha remains determined, curious, and a bright light for Todd as he navigates his new role. 

On a business trip, the pair solidify their feelings for one another within a heart-shaped bed next to a copy of the Karma Sutra. Asha reveals that their relationship is destined to end as her parents have organized an arranged marriage for her from the time she was four-years-old. However, according to Asha, a trip to Goa, referring to a blissful trip with a love match, is permitted once. 

Todd and Asha (Dharker) 

Asha charms Todd by sharing more stories and giving context to Indian culture. She explains to him the ways of Kali: the goddess of destruction and how at times, it can be beneficial to destroy. 

Outsourced is a charming film. It is easily digestible, flows seamlessly, and brings life to a variety of endearing characters. Hamilton and Dharker foster an entrancing and innocent chemistry that transpires across the screen with ease. What they have might be short, but it is most definitely sweet. 

Upon watching, the question is raised: how relatable is Todd as an expat? Outsourced exemplifies some of the most common experiences typical to expats, including culture shock. For Todd, he surpasses the honeymoon phase of culture shock in which your new life seems utopian quickly. Instead, Todd rapidly progresses into the frustration stage. This effect is due in part to Todd’s initial mindset. He entered India with extreme hesitancy and felt lost and out of place.

For expats, the mindset in which one enters their new living situation can make a large difference in how they perceive their current experience. As I entered my new living situation in Paris, I remained in the honeymoon stage for much longer than Todd because I was eager to visit. 

During his time abroad, Todd forms many global connections in a variety of places. From the table of a fake McDonalds to a community his homestay shares a fence with, Todd connects with others. As Todd develops abroad, he also begins to feel more confident and comfortable– an important stage within an expat’s journey. By the end of the film, he accomplished the task set by his boss and adopted a new Eastern way of thinking. He began to problem-solve according to Indian cultural standards as opposed to American ones and actualized within his journey of self-discovery. 

At the end of his journey in India, Todd quit his position within American Novelty Products who wanted him to train another call center in China. Through his journey, Todd built up enough self-confidence to decline the offer despite the associated risks. Once Todd reached the acceptance stage within culture shock and returned to Seattle, he reminisced about India with fond memories and continued to enjoy reminders of his journey abroad while in the United States. 

Whether you are an expat yourself, will be going abroad in the future, or are comfortable in your native country, Outsourced is a lovable film that anyone can enjoy.

by Taylor Addison 

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