'The Namesake' is a film based on the book of the same name by author Jhumpa Lahiri, which tells of an Indian couple who move to America and the fractured relationship they have with their son who, having been brought up in New York, has a different set of social values to his parents.
The story begins in Calcutta where Ashoke Ganguli (Khan) comes as a suitor to the beautiful Ashima (Tabu) and she agrees to be his wife. Once married, they go to live in New York and not long after, in film running time, they have a son (Penn) and daughter (Nair), the former of whom grows up to resent not only his name, Gogol, but his parents' traditional behaviours and Indian attitudes.
And although he was brought up in a life of little struggle when compared to his parents, his indifference to his heritage and his parents brings them great concern as they continue in vain to bring him back to his roots.
This film tells a remarkable story. And although compressing a 30-year journey into a two-hour film makes it a little hard to grasp and is perhaps its greatest downfall, it is offset by the dramatic slow pace to the film in which we easily capture all the imperfections and strengths of the central characters. There is a multitude of themes running through this story, from the jagged father-son relationship to not forgetting your homeland or your home.
This may be a slow moving and for the most part somewhat pessimistic drama. However, by the time you reach the end, there is a worthwhile lesson that we learn along with Gogol.
It must be said that the acting throughout the film is excellent. The characters of Ashoke and Ashima are very well cast and provide an incredibly strong foundation on whose shoulders the film largely rests. Kal Penn, who is more worldly known for 'Harold and Kumar...', is outstanding as Gogol and brings to the screen the indifferent and tormented soul of the central character.
'The Namesake' is a decent film but I fear may be too lacklustre for some.