Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Namesake

"The Namesake" (Mira Nair, 2007) Mira Nair's adaptation of Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri's novel about the Ganguli family, leaving India to make a life in America, and how the two generations forgo, reject, accept, embrace and live within their Indian heritage in the Land of Opportunity. Nair's eye for telling detail and scriptwriter Sooni Taraporevala's choice of incident make this common tale, uncommon in its execution as Nair grabs random images of still lives that seem to remain while the humans in the drama change and change and change.

Particular attention is paid to the
Ganguli son who is given the burdensome name Nikolai Gogol, after the writer (or just "Gogol," as he chooses to be called in childhood) and his dawning awareness of the many facets of meaning and legacy that that name has for him as it becomes associated with him in various stages of his life. He begins by seeing it as his identity; it sets him apart. Then, it sets him too apart, and he adapts it to his comfort, then as he digs into its origins, he revolts against it. The more he learns, the more he cherishes it.

Heritage and history co-mingle on life's chaotic journey; it informs and insinuates through the day-to-day business of making other plans, and shapes and colors the careers and marriages and deaths and life. The pull of the two countries ebb and flow and their primary influences on each individual change with incident.

The performances are low-key, but one becomes amazed at the subtle aging of the characters, and the familiarity of the lives led. It's a subtle, heart-warming movie that lingers in the mind, setting off little thrills of discovery.

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