Archive for September, 2010

Outsourced, an initial review

September 24, 2010

I”ll do a longer post on NBC’s Outsourced in a week or two (yes, I am planning to watch a few more episodes). For now, here’s my review – an edited collection of my tweets as I watched last night.

9:30 pm: Just in time. Finished reading review of #Outsourced in the NYTimes. Two sentences in particular make me optimistic: “the jokes change in tandem with the world’s balance of power,” and ?Outsourced is a comedy about Indian capitalism that mostly makes fun of American decline.”

5 minutes in: so far, Manmeet (“man meat”) aside, the jokes have been meh, but not too bad. But what’s with the color scheme in the office? *aaagh*

10 minutes in: Struck by how terrible the music has been. A Panjabi MC number can be justified, kind of. But the title song of “Omkara,” a Bollywood film about Hindi heartland politics?

White dude in a garish call-center office, and the song goes “sabse bade ladaiyya re…” (“the most bad-ass fighter in the land”)? Seriously?

12 minutes in: I’ve decided I’ll stick with the show for at least 3-4 episodes.

15 minutes in: This Rajiv character fits the “sly native” stereotype, no? And Madhuri the diffident brown woman who becomes the white guy’s project? *Sigh* What to do. It’s hard to completely let go of po-co jargon.

20 minutes in: Is #Outsourced struggling to write past stereotypes? Yes. Offensive? Not really. Not yet, at least.

25 minutes in: someone should write about accents. Thinking of Shilpa Dave’s article “Apu’s Brown Voice: Cultural inflection and South Asian accents” (in this anthology)

End of show: Above all, #Outsourced is problematic b’cos it is a step backwards where American TV’s imagination of Desi identity and culture is concerned. Instead of building on The Office (Mindy Kaling), Parks & Recreation (Aziz Ansari), and other shows, this one fails to imagine and explore Desi culture and identity *within* the U.S.

Once again, Desis are positioned elsewhere. The very idea of Desi is outsourced.

p.s. no longer sure what that NYTimes reviewer saw.

Bollywood & the “new media” question

September 6, 2010

How do we map and analyze the relationship between “new media” and the Bombay film industry? In what ways have various new media technologies and platforms shaped the ongoing transformation of the Bombay film industry into “Bollywood”?And how do we then think about inter-media relations in a city like Bombay in historically grounded fashion?

This is a question I have been interested in for several years now, and one that is central to the book I’m working on. It emerged from fieldwork I conducted towards my dissertation (back in 2004-05), and subsequent research in Bombay confirmed my initial sense that radio, state-owned television, cable and satellite television, and the Internet and the mobile phone have all shaped the film industry in important ways. To begin tackling this problematic, I decided to work on a case-study of Indiafm.com, one of the most popular and successful film-related websites. And now, that case study has been published in Media, Culture and Society!

From Indiafm.com to Radio Ceylon: new media and the making of the Bombay film industry,” will be in the journal’s September 2010 issue. Writing this piece was crucial as it served as an opportunity to develop an argument for the book project, and also allowed me to locate contemporary issues of media convergence in a broader historical frame. In particular, stories about Radio Ceylon and the Bombay film industry were fascinating, and proved very useful for arguing that historically informed analyses of inter-media relations are crucial if we are to develop more complex and textured cultural genealogies of the Bombay film industry’s ‘global’ flows and influences.


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