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September 13th, 2005
1-800-INDIA
Filmmaker Notes: Producer Anna Cater

Photo of producer Anna CaterWhen I was approached by WIDE ANGLE to make this film, I had just spent three months traveling around India, and I had been intrigued to see for myself the impact of globalization on India’s booming economy and its society.

As a documentary filmmaker, I am always interested in making films from the inside perspective, in this case the effect of globalization on the lives of people who are working in the outsourcing industry in India. The director, Safina Uberoi, decided to approach this film from the perspective of women, as she perceived women’s lives in India are going through tremendous social change due to their careers in the outsourcing industry.

I am very impressed with the four women in our film. They all have such poise and assurance in front of the camera, and they are all so articulate. I have a great love of India, and I sometimes fear that globalization will gradually wipe out its wonderful cultures, but these four women are testament to the strength and spirit of this vibrant democracy. I hope this film illustrates in its own small way that the world is not flat — that we can remain firmly rooted in our own identities and cultures while accommodating global influences.

When describing this film to friends, I found myself using terms like “women’s liberation” and “gender equality” to describe the gains these women in India are making — terms which today in the West seem old-fashioned, harking back to an era 20 to 30 years ago.

Unless you know India well, it is hard to comprehend the social taboos which still exist. On the whole women do not smoke, and certainly not in public. It is the same for drinking alcohol. And socializing with men — in many households, the women still serve the men first and eat their meals later. And one of the topics that Indians delight in discussing (apart from the ubiquitous cricket) is how their arranged marriages are more successful than our so-called “love” marriages in the West. So to see how the young women in our film are navigating their society’s marriage customs was fascinating.

It is very difficult to secure access inside call centers for filming. Companies have strict security to protect confidential data such as credit card transactions. Gecis, the company which gave us permission to film, placed a great deal of trust in us. They did not try to influence the making of this film, and we were allowed to film any person we wanted to going about their work.

In the early days of call centers in India, employees were coached in accents — American, Australian, English. But now the industry has matured and the only accent training is for clear pronunciation. Even so, employees tend to pick up an accent, as they listen to them all the time. As an Australian (and we have a very particular accent), it was a strange experience filming the Australian shift of a Gecis call center and hearing Indians speak “Australian,” quite unintentionally.

Gecis is based in Gurgaon, which was once a small village on the outskirts of New Delhi but is now a booming metropolis. Residents of Delhi make a day’s outing to Gurgaon to shop at its many malls. The malls have escalators, and frequently you see children mustering up the courage to ride on an escalator for the first time. They have to be pushed onto them by their parents. It brought back memories of my own childhood in Australia.

Our first shoot in Gurgaon was during a summer heat wave. It was 115 degrees Fahrenheit. I couldn’t wear my metal-framed sunglasses outside, as the metal would burn my face. We faced the same problem with the camera. Usually making films in an air-conditioned office is considered the most boring location, but in this instance we welcomed it.

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