Dir James Dodson. US. 2008. 106 mins
Indian-American joint venture The Other End Of The Line demonstrates the pitfalls of creative globalisation even as it makes globalisation a backdrop for its frothy romantic comedy. Produced by Ashok Amritraj's Hyde Park and Bollywood giant Adlabs, this piece of cross-cultural cuteness will seem pretty bland to most Western audiences. Whether it works in India, and for the Indian expatriate crowd, will depend largely on the pulling power of Shriya Saran, the South Indian star making her English-language debut opposite Hollywood hunk Jesse Metcalfe.
MGM launches the PG-13-rated, female-skewing rom-com into a crowded US marketplace this weekend. Attracting a sizeable Anglo audience seems unlikely, but the studio may have more luck in its targeted appeals to the States' sizeable Indian-American population.
Hyde Park has been licensing the film to independents in the rest of the world, and distributors in territories with large Indian communities - such as the UK, South Africa and the UAE - have a chance of doing decent theatrical and video business.
Tracey Jackson, who wrote 2002 Asian-American crossover comedy The Guru, scripted the story of Priya (Saran), a bright and beautiful worker in a Bangalore credit card company call centre, and her American customer Granger (Metcalfe). Sensing a connection that's more than just telephonic, Priya, who poses on the phone as an American, secretly flies to San Francisco to meet Granger. She is followed on her adventure, however, by her conservative parents and a disapproving auntie, who are desperate for Priya to go through with an arranged marriage to an eligible but dull Indian boy.
Early on, the script touches quite tellingly on the generational divide between young Indians and their parents (Priya already makes more money than her father) and the absurdities of the globalised world (the call centre workers are drilled in the minutiae of American slang and celebrity culture). Before long, however, the film settles into a pattern of predictable romance interspersed, thanks to the antics of Priya's relations, with broad family farce.
The romance element begins with a clunky meet-cute between Priya and Granger and continues as the two spend a day flirting their way around some of San Francisco's picturesque tourist attractions.
The inevitable pothole in the path of true love comes when Granger discovers that Priya is engaged and Priya interrupts what looks like a sexy tryst between Granger and his outgoing girlfriend. But the conflict passes too quickly to have much emotional impact and really only sets the film up for another cute set-piece as Granger jets to India to profess his love.
Director James Dodson, who previously made straight-to-video action thriller Beyond Enemy Lines II, stages the story fairly efficiently, but the script gives him little to really work with. He pads out the narrative with travelogue-style montages of the characters' colourful hometowns (though the production mostly shot in Mumbai, with the Indian financial and entertainment capital even standing in for New York and San Francisco on occasion).
Top-billed (in the US at least) Metcalfe, best known for 2006 rom-com John Tucker Must Die and his TV appearances in Desperate Housewives, is personable enough as the boyishly handsome Granger. Saran, whose recent Tamil-language hits have included Sivaji: The Boss and Azhagiya Tamil Magan, looks strikingly pretty, but her performance feels a little too forced for its American context.
Boosting the film's Indian diaspora appeal, the supporting cast includes Anupam Kher (from English and Indian films including Bend It Like Beckham and Khosla Ka Ghosla) as Priya's flustered dad and Tara Sharma (from Khosla Ka Ghosla and several UK TV series) as her cautious best friend.
Hyde Park Entertainment
Hyde Park Entertainment