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
This film is everything a good movie is supposed to be: diverting and credible. You are left in no doubt as to the integrity of the characters in their respective roles. The movie commences with Ashima, a young girl in India (played by intoxicating Tabu), introduced to a prospective husband, Ashoke. She decides she likes him because before entering the room to see him for the first time she sees his Western wingtiped shoes outside the door and decides he must be an interesting person. He is further endeared to her (and us) when she is asked to recite a beloved sample of English verse and he smiles at her composure and suppressed perturbation when interrupted by his pedantic father. She is married to this engineer and taken to the U.S. to live in New York, and slowly begins to adapt. The movie follows her for 25 years as she sees her two children become Americans and face their own (and in the case of one, very poignant) issues.
Loneliness, joy, tribe, custom, and life's relentless call for adaptation are major themes, and they unfold beautifully. Perhaps its most understated point is that none of the good would have come to pass but for the success of the arranged marriage between Ashoke and Ashima, i.e., that this wonderful young woman had the good fortune to link up with the kind and loving Ashoke. It is the success of the parents' marriage that makes everything possible. As a Westerner unfamiliar with the concept of arranged unions I shivered at the thought of what could have happened if Ashoke had not been such a decent man and loving husband and father.
This is a wonderful film.
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