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The Namesake (2006)

DVD Cover (Fox Searchlight)
Director:
Mira Nair Mira Nair
Starring:
Kal Penn Kal Penn
Tabu Tabu
Irrfan Khan Irrfan Khan
Jacinda Barrett Jacinda Barrett
Zuleikha Robinson Zuleikha Robinson

7.5 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres: Drama, Family Drama
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Review by bluemeanie
Added: December 05, 2007
When director Mira Nair burst onto the scene with two consecutive indie favorites, "Monsoon Wedding" and "Hysterical Blindness" - the major studios were impressed. Thus, they gave her free reign to create "Vanity Fair", an expensive historical epic that, ultimately, did very little box office and was pretty savagely demolished by critics and audiences alike. It has been 3-years since that experience and now she returns with "The Namesake", a family drama that chronicles a family over the course of two generations as they make their way in the United States. Nair manages to pack a lot of material into just under two hours and she really presents us with a family that represents the traditions of the Indian culture trying to merge with the traditions of the U.S. culture. What results is an absolutely lovely film that had me engaged from start to finish.

The film follows Ashoke Ganguli (Irfan Khan) as he and his new bride Ashima (Tabu) travel to the United States, where he is studying. They have a child, Gogol (Kal Penn) and eventually have a daughter as well. Ashoke assimilates with more ease than Ashima, who misses her homeland and wants to return, but they do what they feel is best for the children and stay. When Gogol grows older, he is obviously clinging to more of his American traditions than his Indian ones. This comes as a shock to his parents, who can't believe he wants to change his name. We follow Gogol as he grows up and eventually moves to New York City, where he meets a girl (Jacinda Barrett) and even starts to forget about his parents. Something tragic happens around the 3/4 mark of the film, and I won't reveal it, but it takes the film down a more serious and poignant path. By the end of the film, we've gotten to know both generations of the family and have such empathy for them.

The standout performance in the film comes from Irfan Khan as Ashoke, in a role that should be rewarded with a Best Supporting Actor nomination. He easily portrays the character as a young man and as a middle-aged man, and has some very touching scenes with his wife and son. Kal Penn does a serviceable job as Gogol, though I have to think that maybe someone with a more dramatic background might have been able to do better service to the role. And watch for the beautiful Glenne Headly in a role you will absolutely miss her in if you don't watch it. On the whole, "The Namesake" is a lush and heartfelt motion picture about family and the importance of culture in any family, American or Indian. As far as I am concerned, "The Namesake" is Mira Nair's comeback picture and it really shows what she can do with material she is passionate about.

8/10.
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