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Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World (2005)

 What makes Muslims (and Hindus) laugh? The quest for the answer to this question is the theme of the movie “Looking for Comedy in The Muslim World” (2005). The movie starring Albert Brooks, who played himself, is a low-key, simple story describing the US Government’s attempt to better understand the Muslim world by understanding what constitutes humor in the muslim world.

In the movie, Abert Brooks plays an out-of-work comedian who is sent to India by the US government to look for humor in the Muslim world. He is asked to spend four weeks in India and turn in a 500-page report on this topic. He eventually spends two weeks in India, trying to interview people on roads, doing a stand-up comedy show, and crossing illegally into Pakistan to meet with some ‘comedians’.  His efforts don’t help him learn much, but his naive remarks and actions do lead to an escalation of situation between India and Pakistan, two countries that have been at war since the British divided India into two countries.

I have to admit that the movie is not my favorite. It does not have a tight storyline and the humor was somewhat subtle. I do find it interesting, however, that I didn’t get many of the jokes in the movie till my American students or colleagues explained them to me. As the movie highlights, humor definitely is cultural-specific. The one cool thing about the movie is that we will be visiting several of the places shown in the movie- The Red Fort, India Gate, Taj Mahal (which Albert missed seeing because he was engaged in a heated conversation), Rajiv Chowk (where his Indian office was), and Old Delhi. (In fact, students who noticed a building called ‘Ambadeep’ near Albert’s office, will see the same building in Delhi when we visit Rajiv Chowk, the heart of Delhi’s tourist circuit).


Outsourced (2007)

outsourced1Outsourced (2007) is a comedy about Todd Anderson, VP of customer relations at a phone-order company in Seattle. One day Todd learns that the work of his entire department is being outsourced to India where salaries are much lower. Todd is expected to go to India, train the workers there, and find a replacement for himself. When he reaches India, Todd finds himself in a country that is vastly different from where he grew up, a culture that he can not connect to, and a language he can not understand. Todd soon learns that the only way to be comfortable in his new life in India is to not resist the Indian culture, but assimilate with it. Todd’s funny (and sometimes aburd!) adventures in India are the story of this movie.

You would have to be living on another planet not to have heard about some poor worker in the US (or another western country) who was asked to find and train his or her (usually his!) replacement in India or China. One such story becomes the starting point of the movie Outsourced. Though the movie relies heavily on stereotypes about U.S. and India, it does present a hilarious (though fictionalized) account of an American’s first visit to small-town India.

The movie is certainly worth watching for a first-time visitor to India, a westerner who wants to join an Indian company for job or internship, and people interested in cross-cultural issues.

Working Girl (1988)

workgirl.jpg Working Girl (1988) is a movie about a young women’s efforts to succeed in the brokerage industry where men are bosses and women are secretaries. Melanie Griffith plays a secretary who has the ambition and drive to succeed, but finds all the cards stacked up against her. Her male bosses don’t take her seriously, and things don’t improve even when she is assigned to a female boss. She has a good idea for an acquisition, which her new boss steals and tries to pitch as her own. Of course, like with all Hollywood movies the good wins over the evil, the hard-working people succeed and the dishonest and unethical find themselves defeated.

Most people like to think that if you work hard, success will come. The movie does a realistic job portraying how most people usually remain trapped in the socio-economic strata in which they were born. It is really hard to break free and move up when most other forces are working to keep you where you were. Of course, Hollywood movies do an efficient and effective job of taking you from you are to where you want to be.

The movie is definitely worth watching!

Baby Boom

BBBaby Boom (1987) is the story of a successful New York businesswomen J. C. Wiatt who is doing well in her professional life until a distant cousin passes away and entrusts her child Elizabeth to her. After J. C. starts caring for Elizabeth she struggled to stay on top of her work, was often late to work. Dissapointed with her recent performance, her boss decided to give her major account to her colleague and told her they were no longer interested in making her a partner. J.C. decided to quit her job and bought a house in a small town in Vermont. Life in Vermont was a struggle for J.C., as she adapted to a new way of life in the small town. During the long boring days in her new house she developed baby food for Elizabeth from the apples she had from her orchard. She approached the local store to sell her baby food. Some tourists came in while she was in the store and they just fell in love with the idea of gourmet baby food. So J.C. started her own gourmet baby food business called Country Baby. Her business was a hit and she became a successful women entrepreneur. A big New York-based company offered to buy her company, but after thinking it about J. C. decided not to sell her business. Instead, she chose to stay in Vermont and manage her business.

This is a great movie about a women entrepreneur. In fact, it is a classic illustration of the reason many successful women are believed to pursue entrepreneurship- the inability to balance the demands of their family and work. For women who find themselves in such a situation, entrepreneurship offers them the flexibility that they do not have wnen they are working for others. Baby Boom also illustrates many other entrepreneurial concepts, such as gureilla marketing, young venture acquisition, and product positioning. I believe it’s a movie worth watching, especially for those interested in entrepreneurship.