June 6, 2007 -- “The Namesake” is a complex, multi layered story of a family from India adjusting to life in the United States. It is first and foremost a love story about a married couple and their rebellious son. It is also a story about Indian traditions clashing with the American culture, resulting in a fusion. It is full of love and heartbreak. It is also one of the best films I have seen so far this year, expertly directed by Mira Nair (“Monsoon Wedding”). It isn't really an Indian film. It is more international in nature and it should be universal in its appeal. Much of the dialogue in the film is English, but Hindi, Bengali and French are also heard.
The story, which covers more than 20 years, starts with an arranged marriage between Ashoke (played by Irfan Khan) Ashima Ganguli (famous Indian actress Tabu). The marriage takes place in India, but Ashoke lives in America, so the two set up house there. The transition is hard for Ashima, living in a foreign country with a cold climate, cut off from her friends and family. When she gives birth to her son, Gogol (Kal Penn of “Harold and Kumar go to White Castle”) she tells her husband she does not want to raise her son in such a cold, unfriendly place. Eventually, however, she does weave her family into a circle of friends, Indian immigrants living in the suburbs. Though she still longs for India, she learns to love America and her new friends as well.
Gogol, named after famed Russian author Nikolai Gogol, resents his name and rebels against his family and Indian and Bengali traditions. Gogol is actually his nickname, and he finally rejects it for his “good name” or real name given to him by his grandmother in India. This is another Bengali tradition, the use of two names. Finally, his father explains to Gogol why he named him after a Russian author. This begins the reconciliation process between the father and his estranged son. Gogol finds himself eventually drawn back to both his parents and the Indian traditions he has neglected.
Over the years the love between Ashoke and Ashima, who were strangers when they were wed, has become deep and strong. It is a beautiful thing to behold. Over time, more changes happen to the family and they adjust and move on with the aid of their relatives and friends in India and America. The story is a universal one in many ways. Gogol's journey from boyhood to adulthood mirrors many others stories in many cultures. While some of the film is specific to Indian and Bengali culture, much of it is universal. This is a very emotionally powerful, moving film. It rates an A.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.