MOVIE: ** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5)
Irfan Khan as ASHOKE GANGULI
Kal Penn as GOGOL GANGULI
Jagannath Guha as GHOSH
Ruma Guha Thakurta as MRS. GANGULI
Directed by: Mira Nair
Studio: FOX Searchlight
BY KEVIN CARR
I have a friend who probably loved “The Namesake.” He’s an Indian immigrant who still feels very tied to his culture while completely accepting and living within the American system. He is in an arranged marriage and doesn’t regret it, and he is extremely interested in any Indian import film or film about his home country.
I, on the other hand, am not Indian. I’m nowhere near Indian. I’m about as far from Indian as you can get. I’m a pasty white chubby dude of Irish and Hungarian heritage. And while I have plenty of immigrant experience (and oppression as well) in my family’s past, it’s utterly different than what your average Indian immigrant faces in the world today.
The bottom line is that “The Namesake” is not made for me. It is steeped in Indian culture, which is interesting but not explained in the film to someone like me. It’s not an attempt to bring Bollywood to the U.S. since there’s nothing in there that gives it that typical Bollywood feel (or at least the feel a pasty white chubby dude like myself would expect).
The film tells the story of a family from India that moves to New York for a better life. The parents struggle to assimilate into the American society, but the kids fell oppressed by their overbearing Indian culture.
“The Namesake” is a very well made movie, and it is beautifully shot and effectively acted. However, it lacks focus and never quite finds its footing. I kept wondering if it’s a story of a man trying to make a better life for his family, a father’s struggle to do the right thing, a mother’s challenge to persevere hardship, an immigrant family’s attempt to retain its heritage or a son’s struggle to live up to his family’s name.
I suppose “The Namesake” is all of those things, and that’s probably why it’s a great film for the right audience. However, I felt it lacked direction while steeped in a whirlwind of brilliant production art.
The DVD has plenty of special features an that make it a nice grab for anyone who enjoyed the film. The standard extras include a director’s commentary, deleted scenes and several behind-the-scenes featurettes. Other, more unique, features include a Kolkata love poem and a spotlight on the photography of the film.