Director Sarba Das has taken the stomach-churning subject of credit card debt and used it as a hilarious plot device in this endearing romp of a screwball romantic comedy. Watching Karma Calling is definitely non-stop farcical fun as the maxed out Raj’s, a Hindu family living above their means in Hoboken, are pestered by credit card call center collectors based in India.
Ingenious scenes highlight the absurdity of our hyper-globalized world as the Indian collectors learn how to sound American and choose fake names based on popular American sitcoms. The plot thickens when a relative of the Raj’s arrives from India, intending to influence her family to stop eating meat and start meditating. Traditional India meets Americanized Indians and it all adds up to the exploration of basic human values: family unity, love and money.
The set up is this: one day, the smoothest operator from the India call center, the absolutely adorable and charismatic Rob Roy, calls the Raj house and daughter Sonal picks up the phone. Soon the two are chatting away and the chemistry is immediate. What Somal doesn’t know (because of his finely perfected American accent and slang) is that Rob is an ocean away instead of being a boy next door. Adding to this comedy of cultural errors is Sonal’s brother Shyam, who dreams of making it as a hip-hop artist with a song that features a Japanese title. While “hanging out in the ‘hood,” Shyam suddenly finds himself smitten with an Indian girl who recently arrived in the nabe and is about to marry a Dollar Store mogul in an arranged marriage. What to do? Meanwhile, Mr. and Mrs. Raj try to figure out how to pay the bills, duck the creditors and figure out life in America.
The film has broad laugh appeal, and better yet, many wonderfully hip, small moments that offer snappy insights. One of these moments occurs when a pompous trainer at the call center, seeking to win a trip to America, coyly passes out bags of Doritos, hoping to inspire demoralized Indians to act more like Americans. By flipping the equation of cultural identities and spotlighting deficits, Karma Calling nails it: no matter where you live, the color of your skin or how much money you have (or don’t have), what the world really needs now is love, sweet love. An additional caveat? To thine own self, be true!