An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African-American maids' point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.
While traveling by train to visit his grandfather in Jamshedpur, Calcutta born, Bengali-speaking Ashoke Ganguli meets with fellow-traveler, Ghosh, who impresses upon him to travel, while Ashoke is deep into a book authored by Nicholai Gogol. The train meets with an accident, and after recuperating, Ashoke re-locates to America, settles down, returns home in 1977 to get married to aspiring singer, Ashima, and returns home to New York. Shortly thereafter they become parents of a boy, who they initially name Gogol, and a few years later both give birth to Sonia. The family then buy their own house in the suburbs and travel to India for the first time after their marriage. The second time they travel to India is when Gogol and Sonia are in their late teens, and after a memorable visit to Kolkata and then to the Taj Mahal, they return home. Gogol falls in love with Maxine Ratliff and moves in with her family, while Ashoke spends time traveling, and Sonia moves to California, leaving Ashima... Written by
A very well-shot, vibrant film that captures the nuances of Bengali culture, as well as the loneliness universally felt by all persons.
As a fellow Bengali and Jhumpa Lahiri fan, I had low expectations for a movie adaptation of her poignant novel (though I think The Interpreter of Maladies was better written). However, I was pleasantly surprised when I finally saw the movie at today's NY Times Arts and Leisure Weekend screening. The movie addresses all issues with care, and makes a non-Bengali audience understand the nuances of Bengali culture. The movie captures the hustle and bustle of India, sets the tone of the movie from the very first scene, and, overall, is heartwarming and true. It is humorous at all the right points, and the transition from a loud, vibrant and colorful life to a lonely, cold, and snow-white New York is breathtaking. You can feel Tabu's (Ashima's) loneliness. Jhumpa Lahiri's cameo is well-appreciated, though many in the audience did not catch it. The movie is respectful of Indian culture and uses small instances as canvases for large messages. Everyone is well-cast. Kal Penn shows himself to be capable of more difficult roles than the college-boy stereotype. Tabu and Irrfan Khan do not disappoint, since they are some of the highest-esteemed actors in India today. I felt like going back to Calcutta during all the Indian scenes. Starting the opening credits with the characters of the actors' names replaced with American characters was witty. "Everyday has been a gift, Gogol," Irrfan Khan (Ashok) tells Kal Penn (Gogol) in the movie, but truly, The Namesake is a wonderful gift for its audience, especially since I saw this movie 5 days before my birthday.
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