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The Namesake movie review

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The Namesake

Cast Kal Penn, Tabu, Irfan Khan, Jacinda Barrett    more...
Director Mira Nair
Drama
English

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The The Namesake Movie Review

A compelling watch
By Aparajita Ghosh
Rating: 3/5

When an internationally acclaimed filmmaker like Mira Nair comes up with a film that is adapted from a book by Pulitzer winning author, it is time to sit up and take notice. 'The Namesake', which is based on the book of the same title by Jhumpa Lahiri, is a movie rich in emotions. It is a film about cross-cultural identity crisis.

The element of realism has been very strong in all of Nair's films. 'The Namesake', too, is very realistic and credible, not just in its look but also in the way the story has been treated and presented by Mira Nair. Not once are the emotions overblown. Rather you sense a slight awkwardness in the film's characters when they have to bare their hearts open.

The film tells the story of an expatriate Indian couple living in New York. The story begins in early 70s. Ashoke Ganguly (Irrfan Khan) marries a Kolkata girl, Ashima (Tabu) and they emigrate to the US. It takes some time for Ashima to adjust to the lifestyle of the west.

A few years down the line, Ashima gives birth to a son, Gogol, and a daughter, Sonia.

Thereafter begins the tale of slow but unreceding conflict within Gogol, who finds himself torn between the western lifestyle in the American society all around him and the Indian culture in his home. His friends poke fun at his unusual name. Overtime, Gogol begins to dislike his own name and his traditional parents.

In order to find an identity of his own, Gogol changes his name to Nikhil, or Nick, and begins dating a white girl (Jacinda Barrett), thereby openly going against the wishes of his parents who want him to settle down with a Bengali girl.

On the other hand, Gogol's father Ashoke stands as a liberal minded man who sticks to his roots and his values without shunning the western culture.

One meeting with his father Ashoke begins to change Gogol's life. In the meeting, Ashoke explains to him why he was named Gogol, (after Ashoke's favourite author Nikolai Gogol). A tragic incident that changed Ashoke's life in 1971 prompted him to name his son Gogol.

The story then comes to a crucial point when Ashoke dies of heart attack, leaving Ashima alone and shattered. His father's death brings new realizations to the prodigal son. Now, Gogol begins to see and realize who he really is.

Tales of identity crises of the young generation Indian diaspora may have become a bit clichéd of late, but Mira Nair tackles the theme of 'The Namesake' with great sensibility and sensitivity. It is a subject with which she obviously can relate to. She brilliantly captures little moments in the lives of the characters when the conflict between western lifestyle and eastern sensibility comes out in the open.

The story of 'The Namesake' builds upon its characters. Besides the film's technical brilliance and Mira's deft direction, 'The Namesake' leans heavily on performances by the star cast.

Irrfan Khan and Tabu are simply superb together. Irrfan gives a controlled, understated performance while Tabu is highly expressive even when she is not delivering any dialogues. Kal Penn gives a decent performance. Jacinda Barrett is competent.

'The Namesake' begins on a rather slow note. But the movie gains momentum when Gogol is born. Thereafter begins a story that his punctuated with subtle ironies and contradictions. Ashoke's heart-to-heart conversation with Gogol and his death are few of the moving moments in the film.

On the whole, 'The Namesake' is a compelling watch.


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Movie Review : A compelling watch (3/5)
When an internationally acclaimed filmmaker like Mira Nair comes up with a film that is adapted from a book by Pulitzer winning author, it is time to sit up and take notice. 'The Namesake', which is based on the book of the same title by Jhumpa Lahiri, is a movie rich in emotions. It is a film about...
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