CINEMA SUNDAY: Names, Journeys, and Love Stories

The movie “The Namesake” released in 2007 colorfully depicts four love stories set in Calcutta and New York. Directed by Mira Nair and based on the book by Jhumpa Lahiri, the film follows a traditionally arranged marriage, two modern romances that struggle with that tradition, and filial love that connects two different worlds across time.

Ashoke (played by Indian actor Irrfan Khan) and Ashima (by actress Tabu) are married in Calcutta in the 1970s then move on to an American suburb to work and raise a family.  Kal Penn plays their son, a Yale graduate and architect who has two names, Gogol — given to him by his father after a favorite Russian author — and Nikhil,  his real Indian name. His relationships with the two young women in the film depict the cultural conflicts not just between different backgrounds (Bengali immigrants and WASP Manhattanites) but also within a common heritage (second generation Indian Americans).

The death of Ashoke at the end of the movie brings Gogol/Nikhil back to India, to the beginning of his family’s journey and to a clearer understanding of his father’s heart.

[Fox Searchlight Pictures] Trailer: The Namesake
[Movieclips / YouTube] The Namesake (3/3) Movie CLIP – Making Mothers Happy (2006) HD

Learn more:

  • [New York Times] Film Review: Modernity and Tradition at a Cultural Crossroads: “The story of upwardly mobile immigrants torn between tradition and modernity as they are absorbed into the American melting pot has been told in countless movies. This variation is gentle and compassionate.” Read more
  • [Roger Ebert] Review: The Namesake: “What holds it together are the subtle loving performances by Tabu and Khan, both Bollywoood stars. They never overplay, never spell out what can be said in a glance or a shrug, communicate great passion very quietly. ” Read more
  • [The Namesake Movie] Fox Searchlight Pictures Website
  • [NPR] Excerpt: The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri: “On a sticky August evening two weeks before her due date, Ashima Ganguli stands in the kitchen of a Central Square apartment, combining Rice Krispies and Planters peanuts and chopped red onion in a bowl. She adds salt, lemon juice, thin slices of green chili pepper, wishing there were mustard oil to pour into the mix. “ Read more
  • [New York Times] BOOKS OF THE TIMES; From Calcutta to Suburbia: A Family’s Perplexing Journey: “It is a novel about two generations of the Ganguli family, and at the same time it is a novel about exile and its discontents, a novel that is as affecting in its Chekhovian exploration of fathers and sons, parents and children, as it is resonant in its exploration of what is acquired and lost by immigrants and their children in pursuit of the American Dream. “ Read more

Photo credit: Screenshot from Fox Searchlight Pictures Trailer: The Namesake

 


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