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India Outsourced


Jun 1, 2004
Outsourced - A New Sitcom


A Sikh-American advocacy group hopes that Ajeet, a Sikh character in the new NBC sitcom, Outsourced, will educate Americans about Sikhs and help break down stereotypes.

The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund ("SALDEF"), a Washington-based advocacy group, attended a screening of the sitcom in August with NBC executives to check their portrayal of a Sikh character on the show.

"It's well done," said Manjit Singh, SALDEF founder and chairman of the board. "The funny things they were showing were accurate."

Outsourced is based on a 2006 movie by the same name, now available on Netflix, a subscription service that streams movies and television shows over the Internet, and sends DVDs by mail.

The pilot episode sets up the story, which is the same as the movie:

A call-center manager, Todd, discovers that his call center has been outsourced to India and he has to go there to train the new employees. What he experiences is a culture clash. As he is introduced to the employees, the Indians can't help but pronounce Todd as "Toad" and Todd makes fun of an employee named Manmeet. The comical situations continue from there.

"There is a mutual lack of awareness of other cultures," Manjit Singh said about the show. "They are showing scenarios of how this American is a fish-out-of-the-pond and has his own misconceptions, stereotypical understandings about Indian culture. The Indian head of the call center has same stereotypes (about American culture). And the whole ridiculous call center is set up for selling the most silly products from a catalog that sells gag items."

The writers for the show include Americans who have origins in the subcontinent, and they have other people who are informed experts serving as advisors, Manjit Singh said.

"It seems like they have tried to get the right people involved," he added. "It's a good opportunity to show a Sikh character with real Sikh identity."

One of the differences between the show and the movie is the Sikh employee.

"He is an actual Sikh character, not someone just wearing a costume, a beard and acting like a Sikh," Manjit Singh said.

His name is Guru Singh. And although he does not have a lead role, no talking part in the pilot, his character is expected to develop in subsequent episodes, a spokeswoman from Universal Media Studios said.

NBC executives at the screening said that the show could go deeper into the backgrounds of employees and reveal more about Indian culture. But that depends on ratings.

"It's not that we don't want to show diversity," Manjit Singh recalls them saying. But if it doesn't get the ratings, they will have no choice but to cancel it.

Four organizations previewed the 24-minute pilot in Washington. SALDEF, as a member of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, was among the groups that monitored the show for cultural content. The council initially requested the meeting with NBC executives.

NBC executives also allowed other advocacy groups to screen the pilot in Los Angeles, where the show is being filmed.

Outsourced will debut on Sept. 23, 2010.

[Courtesy: SikhNN]

September 14, 2010


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