Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Namesake: Review

I normally do not do movie reviews. I don't have much opinion about many things and I certainly do not discuss movies a lot. There is also the fact that almost everyone who maintains a blog does review movies. Namesake is different.

I have read Jhumpa Lahiri's book 'An interpreter of Maladies', the pure joy that is felt from reading the stories of that book not only touches one's heart's emotional strings but relates to each Indian that tries to live in a western country. The need for Indians to really mix into the western world along with the longing to get back to into the company of Indians to celebrate the culture is depicted very well in the stories.

Mira Nair's 'Monsoon Wedding', gave one the warm, fuzzy feeling after watching it. It is not so much as the characters of the movie, but the way the movie was made to make you watch it again and want you to dance in the Baaraat (Indian bridal procession.) at the end of the movie.

Ashok Ganguli (Irrfan Khan) loves to read Nikolai Gogol and is an Indian expat in New York. He is married to Ashima (Tabu) an English major who has to deal with moving to a new country with a man she hasn't met before. The first few days of them being together are really depicted well. At one point Ashok says he would make tea for his jet-lagged wife and the pure terror of this culture shock in Ashima's eyes are felt without any words coming out of her mouth. And I thought there would be more moments like this. Only 10 minutes into the story and this was the high point of the movie.

They name their son Gogol (which is meant to be his pet name) and he wants to keep this name and not his 'good' name Nikhil. It is this name that the story is based on. Why the father names him Gogol and how Nikhil tries to understand his father and his roots later in his life also forms part of the story.

Where the movie disappoints is that the characters are mostly emotionless. When reading most books I wonder how a director would portray the thoughts of each character on the screen. Mira Nair attempted to do this through the expressions of the eyes, but it doesn't show. At one point Gogol tells his wife that 'thats not why I loved you', thing is, we do not know why he did. There was no reason at all why he loved his wife.

Nor does the movie really depict the real issues an Indian proud of their culture would face in a different country. Except for the first real culture shock Ashima felt. There is no longing for them to go to India. The younger Gangulis do not question the differences between themselves and the westerners, which in a story like this would highlight the revelations felt by Gogol later in the story.

If I had read the book before watching this movie, I would have been really disappointed at the portrayal and the screenplay. To really understand how Jhumpa wanted to tell the story, reading the book would be better.


arul john said...

I love that movie. My wife and I watched it in the plane on our way back to the US.