My brother knows me well--He bought me Mira Nair's The Namesake for my birthday. Yay! I couldn't control my excitement...we watched it almost immediately. I'd heard so many good things about the film, so my expectations were high, but I hadn't read the book and knew next to nothing about the plot.
Was I disappointed? Not one bit.
Although the movie centers around Gogol, a young man born in America to Indian parents, my favorite aspect of the film was the beautiful love story between Gogol's parents(played by Tabu and Irfan Khan).
Tabu as Ashima reminded me so much of my own stepmother! Like Uzma, Ashima left her comfort zone in her native country to live in the bustling world of New York City. Like Uzma, Ashima was excited to experience life with her new husband, but was unsure of what to expect. Tabu played this part brilliantly--her facial expressions and mannerisms were eerily similar to my stepmother's reactions in real life.
I don't know what kind of emotions this comment is going to stir up, but it will certainly make for an interesting discussion, so I'll say it anyways: I think arranged marriages have gotten a bad rap. I'm not saying I want one, or that one should be considered when one is already in love with someone else (as so often happens in Bollywood), but I would say that I'm not opposed to it, either. Here in the West, we scoff at arranged marriages, but who has the higher divorce rate? In my unqualified never-been-married opinion, a great marriage depends on the character of both parties and their committment and faithfulness to one another. Arranged or not isn't really the issue, is it?
Ashoke and Ashima are prime examples of a solid marriage. They grew into a deep love for one another that many of the couples I know would envy. Ashoke was a simple man and a caring, considerate husband, and Ashima was content with him and no one else. I adored them together!
Much of the rest of the film was about Gogol and his realization of his roots and his identity. He had a big problem with his name (which I can relate to, but that's another story). But Gogol's path to finding himself had more to it than just accepting his name. He had to learn to accept his Indian heritage in a culture that was strickingly different.
These two elements made for a very interesting story, but The Namesake unraveled them a bit slowly. Sometimes things were said or done that didn't seem to make sense. However, everything tied together in the end, and it became apparent that they were all there for a reason.
The Namesake had a very realistic, unflashy feel, which worked for the story it was trying to tell. I throughly enjoyed the film, but there was one thing that bugged me:(***Spoilers ahead***) Gogol's first girlfriend, Maxine, got a raw deal... She wasn't Indian, and she wasn't trying to be, but she was desperately trying to understand him and all aspects of his life. I felt sorry for her when she was dumped. It's not like she was trying to make Gogol something he wasn't...She seemed like she really loved him, and I thought he loved her, until he married another woman so quickly! And, if you've seen the film, you know how that turned out...
Oh, well. The Namesake was still a good movie, make no mistake. Mira Nair works her magic again!
Text © Copyright 2008 Nida NazirBitten By Bollywood
Yeh nazdeekiyan (1982)
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