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  Publicity Stills of "The Namesake"
(Courtesy from 20th Century Fox)

Genre: Drama
Director: Mira Nair
Cast: Kal Penn, Tabu, Irrfan Khan, Jacinda Barrett, Zuleikha Robinson, Brooke Smith, Sahira Nair
RunTime: 2 hrs 2mins
Released By: 20th Century Fox
Rating: NC-16 (Scene of Intimacy)

Opening Day: 5 April 2007

Synopsis :

When the the Ganguli family moves from Calcutta to New York, they embark upon a lifelong balancing act to meld into a new world without forgetting the old. Though parents Ashoke and Ashima long for the family and culture that enveloped them in India, they take great pride in the opportunities their sacrifices have afforded their children. Paradoxically, their son Gogol is torn between finding his own unique identity without losing his heritage. Even Gogol's name represents the family's journey into the unknown.

Movie Review:

Because we live in a “racially harmonious society” (this reviewer has always had a strange feeling about that term, but that’s another issue altogether), we may never really know what it is like to be living in a society where there are strong feelings of bias and prejudice. What we get instead are stories from friends who have studied overseas, relatives who have migrated to other countries (preferably Western ones), and of course, movies about immigrants adapting to a whole new world’s culture and practices.

Indian director Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, Vanity Fair) brings together a capable cast to tell the story of a young American-born Indian Gogol Ganguli (that name has a significance to it, as we’d find out later in the film) who tries to fit into New York City like a regular American, but is torn between his parents’ traditional way of life and the excitingly bustles the city has to offer.

This plot may be nothing new to the seasoned movie watcher, but what makes this film a winner is the heart put into it. Of course, having an accomplished director like Nair to make a film about Indian immigrants is the first ingredient for success. Next, base it on a 2004 novel by Jhumpa Lahiri and you’d get a sweeping story that spans decades across continents. Then, gather a talented cast which includes the intense Irfan Khan (the grieving Indian father in The Darjeeling Limited) to play a hopeful father, the pretty Tabu (Fanaa) to play the understanding mother, the cheeky Sahira Nair (Monsoon Wedding) to play the mischievous sister and the earnest Kal Penn (Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle) to play the son who provides the drama in the film, and you’d have a family of characters which you can identify with, whether or not you are an immigrant.

What makes this intricate film work are its steady and sturdy performances what do not become showy and ostentatious in the midst of heavy dramatic elements. Also, Nair’s signature visual style of using rich colors and breathtaking cinematography to tell her story is a treat to the senses too. The ethnic score and music pieces used in the film add a touch of authenticity to the film as well.

At the end of the 122-minute film, you’d have traveled the world with the Ganguli to Calcutta and New York City, visited the breathtaking Taj Mahal, experienced their ups and downs as an immigrant family, and heard another moving tale about finding the balance between modernity and traditions.

Movie Rating:

Review by John Li


. Water (2005)

. Bride & Prejudice (2004)

. The Notebook (2004)


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