John and Jane*

A docudrama by Ashim Ahluwalia entered for the Chicago Summer Film Festival-International Screenings.

Yet another movie about outsourcing, except not quite. It focuses on interviews with individuals from varied backgrounds. Despite the fact that these are obviously staged, the basic honesty in the answers comes through pretty well. When the subjects speak off camera especially, their convictions are very palpable, and invokes easy sympathy. All this saves the movie from sliding into clichés or mediocrity. Most importantly, it brings out the glamor these jobs created originally and contrasts it with the reality of the day-to-day drudgery it involves.

Having said that, however, I must say how disappointed I was by the video. I am not sure if it was supposed to be an attempt at artistic experimentation, but the entire movie seemed dark. There were hardly any pastels or even light. Perhaps it was some sort of mood setting, but if so then the cinematography and the content didnt match. Most of the interviews take place at day time when the subjects are not working, in malls or on the streets and yet there is hardly any light and way too many time-lapse images of street-traffic at night. There were so many of these scenes interspersed randomly throughout the movie that it was very distracting. Moreover, in many places the camera was very jerky and that was very dizzing. Besides I thought the director could have definitely cut down the length of the sleeping scenes! So although the movie was comparatively short (83 min) it seemed too long.

All in all, I would give this a B+. A definite watch to get the Indian perspective of the outsourcing phenomenon as long as you are not too picky about artistic appeal and are not turned off by bad editing and cinematography. Definitely go watch it with a diverse crowd, I can guarantee some very interesting discussions. Which is perhaps the best credit to a documentary.

*An interesting trivia about this movie was that most of the interviews were conducted before 2002 and the movie itself was released in 2005. It is surprising that it aired in this years summer festival.

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