The Namesake Mira Nair

The Namesake Mira Nair
The Namesake is a wonderful new film from Monsoon Wedding director Mira Nair. Based on the novel by Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake follows two generations in the lives of the Ganguli family, starting with the parents’ arranged meeting in Calcutta in the 1970s.

Ashima (Tabu) is excited about marrying New York-based professor Ashoke (Irfan Khan) but when they relocate to the cold and lonely U.S.A. she finds American-style social isolation hard to deal with. Their first-born, Gogol (Kal Penn), named after Ashoke’s favourite writer, is the main focus of the story. As a fully Americanised boy, he struggles with his weird name and the cultural expectations of his embarrassingly ethnic parents.

It’s a familiar story to many: parents sacrificing their homeland to give their kids a better future, only to raise children who disappointingly lack a connection to the culture of the home country they’ve barely seen. However, The Namesake’s incredibly sympathetic characters bring this dilemma to life, showing the complexities of both perspectives.

It’s a beautifully crafted film with rich characters, an engrossing story and a great visual treatment. Nair uses a colour palette that shows the world as Ashima sees it, with American life looking washed out and grey while Indian life remains vivid and colourful. The lead performances are fantastic, especially Irfan Khan’s subtle turn as the eternally good-natured Ashoke and Tabu’s capturing of Ashima’s discomfort with American life and longing for home.

Kal Penn, best known as Kumar in Harold and Kumar go to White Castle, gives a surprising amount of depth to Gogol’s transformation from defiant teenager through his distant 20s to his final reconnection with his family and culture. (Fox)