Nalini by Day, Nancy by Night (Dir: Sonali Gulati, 2005)


Nalini by Day, Nancy by Night
A film by Sonali Gulati
2005, United States/India, 27 minutes, Distributed by Women Make Movies

Nalini by Day, Nancy by Night, a documentary about outsourcing telemarketing jobs to Indian call centers, begins with a short animated sequence as the filmmaker introduces herself to us. Sonali Gulati, in calm voice-over, tells us that “this story began with a phone call,” and that in the ten years she has lived in the United States she has learned how to deal with telemarketers. One day, though, she receives a call from “Nancy Smith,” a voice with an Indian accent and the unique ability amongst telemarketers to pronounce Gulati’s name. Soon after, live footage has replaced animation and Gulati is on a plane to New Delhi, her former home, to find Nancy Smith and those like her – Indian people working for Americans and with Americanized names and accents. Nalini by Day, Nancy by Night is a concise but poignant film about the workers whose jobs are the most coveted amongst the urban middle class, but who earn a fraction of the wages of their American counterparts. It examines the way America has infiltrated all parts of the globe, driving workers to compete madly for U.S-provided jobs and to strive for assimilation into American culture. Gulati uses animation, archival footage and taped interviews to put her story together, taking the viewer along as she gradually discovers what story it is and ponders the question of her own identity as an Indian woman living in America. Nalini won the Director’s Choice Award at the Black Maria Film Festival, was the Official Selection at the Margaret Mead Film Festival, and won awards at various other international festivals.

Subject Headings: globalization, identity, documentary, India.

Helpful article: New Subjectivities: Documentary and Self-Representation in the Post-Verité Age by Michael Renov, from Feminism and Documentary, ed. by Diane Waldman and Janet Walker

by Sophie Hagen