MB Recommends: John & Jane
Ashim Ahluwalia’s documentary about call-centre executives is six years old but with India’s outsourcing sector continuing to create headlines, John & Jane—which is being screened by the Enlighten Film Society on Sunday (see membership details on the right)—remains very relevant in 2011. Six call centre workers open up to Ahluwalia and let him into their lives. As Ahluwalia follows them around, into and out of their neon offices and middle-class homes, the viewer is sucked into a fascinating and chilling world. These “agents” live schizophrenic lives as they bounce between their American “cultural training”, 14-hour work shifts, the virtual reality that they’re employed to make as credible as possible, and their actual, physical reality. Ahluwalia is able to take people who are systematically trained to be faceless, generic types and reveal them as individuals who are conflicted between their multiple realities.
The act of putting on an accent and using a fake name seems a simple, trivial thing to do. It seems almost like a game. But the playacting takes on serious proportions as it splinters Ahluwalia’s subjects notions of their own identity and their aspirations. All of them are transformed by their job, some more obviously than others. All of them find a strange but strong sense of belonging in the virtual space they’re paid to inhabit and it makes them feel misfit in their physical surroundings. In some cases, taking on the persona of the generic American feels more real to the call centre worker than their family, their home and the city. Perhaps the most heartbreaking and horrifying is Naomi, as she muses aloud while fluttering her bleached eyelashes that she can’t understand why people don’t realise she’s a natural blonde.
Shot on 35mm, John and Jane also shows Mumbai’s glitter and darkness beautifully. The film won the National Award for best Non-fiction Film and was awarded Best Film at the European Media Art Festival in 2005. It’s easy to see why.Tags: Ashim Ahluwalia, Documentary, Film, John & Jane, John and Jane, MB Recommends
New Link Road
PhoneCall the Enlighten Film Society on 4214 1414.
Relevant DatesSunday, March 13
Ticketing & Price InfoOpen only to EFS members. You can register on the spot for a Rs995 six-month membership or a Rs1,985 annual membership.