After trying her hand at the big budget Hollywood adaptation of Vanity Fair starring Reece Witherspoon, Mira Nair returns to familiar territory; an intimate family saga that spans continents and generations yet stays close to the heart. An adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri's Pulitzer prize-winning novel, The Namesake stars Kal Penn as Gogol, a young Indian American whose Russian name provokes a personal identity crisis. Exploring the Asian American immigrant experience, this poignant tale resonates wherever you are placed in the world.
After their arranged marriage, Ashoke (Irrfan Khan) and Ashima (Tabu) Ganguli leave their home in Kolkata to begin a new life in 70s New York. However, adopting a new country turns out to be as difficult a task for the couple as naming their son. Settling on Gogol (Kal Penn), after the famous Russian author, it's not till years later that he questions both his name and identity as a first generation American teenager. But will rejecting his Bengali roots and the world his parents left behind, in favour of a white girlfriend (Jacinda Barrett) and Manhattan lifestyle, make Gogol as American as apple pie or any less Indian?
"A REAL FAMILY JEWEL"
Nair's deft direction and Sooni Taraporevala's thought-provoking screenplay address this pertinent question, and does so at a suitably leisurely pace. Through the eyes of Gangulis they also query what makes an American family in today's society. But it's the quiet love story between Gogol's parents that really inspires and lifts this film. Both Khan and Tabu are outstanding in their portrayal of the young strangers who are brought together by ancient tradition and grow old side by side, while trying to make sense of their confusing contemporary world. A real family jewel.
The Namesake is released in UK cinemas on Friday 30th March 2007.