They keep callin' me

Take a pseudo-comic tour of an Indian call center and get to know a whole new world in a new offering from YES - 'Mumbai Calling.'

mumbai calling 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
mumbai calling 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Anyone who's ever tried to get help with a non-working product has had the experience of being pitched around the globe to call centers where well-meaning but often totally ineffective, operators take your call. Now YES brings us Mumbai Calling, a refreshingly amusing comedy series on just such a call center, which summons the appeal of the film Outsourced, about just such a place. Teknobable, the featured call center's wonderful name, is run by British transplant Kenny Gupta (Sanjeev Bhaskar of The Kumars at No. 42), who still dreams of his life in the UK and wears Union Jack shorts. Here he deals with anything from malfunctioning dishwashers to beer and cigarette consumption polls to computer software problems - all under one crazy roof. Kenny's having a hard time adjusting to his new job, but with the help of his assistant Dev, he manages to get by. After all, Dev's always there to give Kenny some good advice. For instance, following a romantic break-up, Dev offers, "She ripped out your heart, stuck it in a jiffy bag and mailed it to hell." On the face of it, there's total chaos. But the place seems to buzz along, probably just like any of the many call centers around the world that we call without knowing an iota of their daily functioning. When one worker, taking a phone poll, asks, "Do you smoke sometimes, always or never," and gets only loud hacking in response, he suggests, "Do I put that down as always?" "How many alcoholic products have you consumed in the past week?" he asks in another poll. "I don't know, man, I'm well pissed," comes the answer. Another worker, trying to offer a free cell phone, tells a customer that, "if I did shove it up there, it would still get excellent reception." And when another customer notes that a "monkey on a skateboard" has suddenly appeared on his screen, it becomes clear to the poor phone rep that the guy's just completely erased the accounting program they were working on for hours. Then there are myriad incoming calls from Manchester, where dishwashers, for which the office offers support, are on the fritz. But somehow the place continues to work. But just when Kenny thinks he has matters in hand, word comes from the home office in London that a certain Terry Johnson is headed to Mumbai to do an assessment of the call center, throwing things into a tizzy. Naturally, the office idiot is sent to pick up the visitor, with the hope of losing him along the way. No such luck. And Terry Johnson, it turns out, is a she, not a he. "You're not supposed to be a woman!" says the idiot. "Oh dear me, let's hope you're not employee of the month," she says, getting into his car. Only problem: he is. Before long, she's lost in the streets of Mumbai, stepped into some serious cow doo, and her luggage is lost - but not to worry. Terry Johnson is one tough woman, and when she finally finds her way to Teknobable, she's sure she's straightened everything out and seen enough to hop back on a plane and return home. Yeah right. Johnson's decided she's to stay, setting up a series of culture clashes and encounters with slightly off kilter staff ("It's just that I'm quite tense and I thought I might just go home and have sex with my wife," says one, after being abused by a customer). It's amusing but predictable. While there may be too many jokes about floating excrement, there are also candid observations about how America couldn't solve the flooding during Katrina. A fast pace keeps the jokes coming. "Do men ever nauseate you?" asks a female employee after Dev tries to arrange a new "bendy" personal assistant for Ken. "No, sometimes they just disgust me," says her friend. It's hard to argue with that one. There are the usual ethnic jokes, like when Dev notes the British invented "hard work, dedication and punctuality" and a co-worker adds, "they also invented the three-day week, the sickie and the snooze button." But for a half-hour of comedy that neither insults your intelligence nor requires too much of it, Mumbai Calling is a pleasant, appealing addition to YES's schedule. Now if I can just get them to fix my dishwasher…. Mumbai Calling can be viewed at anytime you like.