Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Unfunny Cultural Cliche That Seems to Be a Sikh Joke; TV WATCH

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Unfunny Cultural Cliche That Seems to Be a Sikh Joke; TV WATCH

Article excerpt

Mumbai Calling ITV1

STAND aside ITV with your dodgy phone lines, there's a new kid on the premium-rate-call block. I've told you before about my computer that randomly dials a million numbers per hour, lets each ring just once, then hangs up (a process that costs me nothing, but tempts some people into dialling 1471 to see who the caller was. This in turn connects them to a premium-rate number charging [pounds sterling]5 per minute or part thereof), but I've recently perfected some lucrative improvements.

Now when they phone back, they'll hear a recording of a stuttering man saying: "Th th this is er ... urgh th th the combined offices of St St Stammerers UK ... (pause five seconds) and The National Speech Impediment line. S s s s orry you were d d d d d d dialled in error, but er ... (pause 10 seconds), er ... th th thank you for c c c calling anyway." Nobody could accuse a stutterer of deliberately lengthening a call, nor will they have the heart to put the phone down until his fourminute message is completed, so I'll quadruple my profits and start grossing at least a million quid a week.

However, the inescapable law of telephonic karma has already taken its revenge on me, by robbing me of 30 minutes of precious existence last night as I watched Mumbai Calling.

Billed as "a cross-cultural romantic comedy", this pilot about English Jews trying to manage an Indian call centre with the help of their British-born Hindu accountant failed utterly as both drama and sitcom, while its observations about ethnic differences were so crass that even the notorious Mind Your Language would have looked enlightened in comparison.

In a desperate attempt to prove that ITV can still make a successful comedy, Paul Jackson (ITV's director of entertainment) turned to the once sure-footed triumvirate of Allan McKeown, Laurence Marks, and Maurice Gran (the men behind such long-running Nineties shows as Birds of a Feather and Goodnight Sweetheart), but he made two serious miscalculations.

He not only allowed the ever-smug Sanjeev Bhaskar to co-write the script, but also let him star in it, and the result was as bland and unpalatable as the dubious turkey served to the bemused staff in the final scene.

Bhaskar's portrayal of Kenny Gupta as a timid and lovestruck loner (complete with detachable clip-on pathos) was deeply unconvincing, but worse still was Tiffany (Sophie Hunter), the object of his affections.

The boss's daughter spoke her lines in anything from a shout to a whisper (the decibel level seldom correlating to the required emotion), and the acting of both performers was so wooden that (bearing in mind how we were taught to start fires in the Wolf Cubs by rubbing two dry sticks together) I 'From its portrayal to its crass Jewish theme (ersatz klezmer played on this was Bollywood misrepresented as Gollywood' feared they might both burst into flames if they ever got into a serious writhing clinch. …

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