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THE NAMESAKE

31-03-2007

The Namesake

Based on the Jhumpa Lahiri novel, this is the tale of Gogol, the American born son of Indian immigrants, who rejects his parents' traditional ways. Dionne McCarthy watches the culture clash.

This funny, touching and beautiful film spans two generations of a family in two hours. It's a big ask, but Mira Nair - the Indian-born, Manhattan-based director - just about pulls it off.

It's a bit plodding at first, mind, as we follow the emerging relationship between Ashoke (Irfan Kan) and his beautiful wife-to-be Ashima (Tabu) who leave Calcutta following their arranged marriage and head to New York/New Jersey.

Their relationship blossoms as they deal with the dramatically different cultures and customs in the US, and following the birth of their first child - named Gogol after the Russian author - the film begins to move at a faster pace.

Gogol (Kal Penn of Harold and Kumar fame) is torn between his Bengali roots and his family's new life. He's a dope-smoking, rebellious teen, and there are some painfully moving scenes as he rejects his father's love.

The conflict continues into adulthood where Gogol's pursuit of a Western lifestyle is aided and abetted by a young American socialite named Maxine (Jacinda Barrett).

It takes a family tragedy for him to begin to accept his roots and gain a sense of himself and his namesake - but by then, has he left it too late?

Director Nair perhaps attempts too much in too little time but certainly achieves a moving and intricate portrayal of a family's life, love and struggles, through subtle characterisation and gorgeous cinematography.

This is a visually stunning film. Breathtaking shots of India juxtaposed with images of a bleak New Jersey help the audience to understand just what Ashoke and Ashima have left behind.

Well worth a watch.

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