Tuesday, April 14, 2009

THE NAMESAKE

Kal Penn, Tabu, Irrfan Khan, Zuleika Robinson, Jacinda Barrett


"Two Worlds. One Journey"


Star Movies




There is this very significant scene in this film about immigrants and their personal struggles to adapt to their new home. The main character Gogol Ganguli (Kal Penn) is talking to his father Ashoke (Irrfan Khan). His father explains the life altering circumstances in his past which contributed to the son being named after the Russian author, Nikolai Gogol. They both had different reactions when the truth was revealed. You could probably chalk it up to a generation gap or maybe a cultural clash but either way it was quite an emotional scene.

The film adaptation of Jhumpha Lahiri's famous novel of the same title is an appropriate portrayal about the valid personal struggles of immigrants. It narrates the story of an American Indian immigrant and his relationship with his parents, his original home (Calcutta, India) as well as his new adopted land (America).

It helps that the characters are well developed and quite sympathetic and endearing to watch. From the parents sacrifices to give their children a better life in a foreign land to the nonchalant and almost indifferent manner that their children react towards their heritage is well presented.

The movie shows a well balanced view between the Indian heritage and the American culture which has enveloped the younger generation. It helps that the actors gave plausible performances. From Tabu as the disenfranchised mother, Irrfan Khan as the steady father figure to Kal Penn as the confused Gogol - they all contributed nicely to give the film some poignant moments without being too sappy for one's own good. Although I thought that trying to make Kal Penn look like a teenager by wearing an ill fitting wig looked totally false. I wonder how come they couldn't afford to hire a younger Indian actor to portray him. But nonetheless it was good to see him in a serious role. One which doesn't require him to act foolish and silly like his White Castle roles.

The cinematography was also well balanced with graphic scenes shot in India and as well as in New York with its bitter winters. Scenes of the Taj Mahal was breathtaking and it brought back fond memories of my childhood days. Years of growing up in the frenzied pace of New Delhi with its chaotic yet exotic charms.

I was nodding in agreement at the scenes where they visited their homeland for a vacation and they were complaining about the heat. A stifling culture shock which really envelops anyone who goes back for a vacation at the land of our birth.

Nicely tucked in between the culture shock, the cultural generation gap between the immigrants and their parents is an emotional love story. I was really touched by the romance between Gogol's parents. Their arranged marriage endured despite conflicting circumstances. From surviving in a strange and foreign land to raising children in a new environment and trying not to lose their rich heritage and identity in the process.

Mira Nair did a good job in directing such diverse characters with a complex storyline. I assume it is a good adaptation of the novel which by the way I haven't read yet. But a book which I bought and haven't lost myself in its numerous pages because of time constraints. Now I just might dust it off the book shelf and discover for myself its essence.

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