Review: ‘The Namesake’

Still from 'The Namesake' We have seen a lot of good movies lately, thanks both to Netflix and the library. I could go on and on about Freeway, Blood Diamond, Zodiac, Russian Dolls, 3 Iron, and Elephant, among others. However, I will choose to talk about one we saw last week that has remained on my mind until this very moment: Mira Nair’s The Namesake, which is based on a novel of the same name by one of my favorite authors, Jhumpa Lahiri.

Although I read the book recently and was pretty familiar with the plot, I enjoyed the movie a great deal. It is the kind of movie that truly moves you as I was not alone in shedding tears non-stop for the duration of the film. Many left the E-Street cinema with swollen, red eyes and mascara running down their cheeks.

The movie tells of the travails of an Indian family that immigrates to the US to pursue the American dream while watching their children becoming more Americanized by the day. I could not stop laughing when the father in the movie, Ashoke Ganguli, explained to his wife the concept of the "24-hour" gas stove.

This scene took me back almost two years ago when we were about to sign the lease on our current apartment. When I asked the rental agent about changing the gas cylinder, she kindly explained to me that I would never have to worry about it. Another memorable scene was when the mother, Ashima, mixed cereal with curry and peanuts in an attempt to make her first American breakfast.

Kal Penn, who played Gogol, did a fantastic job portraying the main character. Watching it also really made me want to get my hands on the real Gogol’s literary work, especially his short story The Overcoat, which plays a central theme in the movie. All in all, the movie was as satisfying as the book. I highly recommend it. Here are some reviews from Rotten Tomatoes.

4 Comments

  1. dm April 2, 2007 at 8:25 pm

    This is quite the departure from his role in “Harold and Kumar go to White Castle” lol.

    Reply
  2. Omar Hamada April 3, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    I haven’t seen ‘The Namesake’ but will look for it.

    Another excellent movie is ‘Amazing Grace’. It is a rather accurate historical representation of William Wilberforce’s move to abolish the slave trade in 18th century England. Highly recommended.

    Reply
  3. N April 18, 2007 at 9:46 pm

    I am Bengali and I thought the movie was pretty good. Just to explain a small detail of the film which I don’t think most non-Bengalis understood…when Ashima is mixing the cereal with peanuts, mustard oil, puffed rice and green chilis and what not together, she is not naively and cutely just mixing random ingredients together in the hopes of it tasting somewhat authentically Indian to her, as many in the theater assumed she was doing. She was actually making a pretty common Bengali teatime snack called “jhaal muri” using American groceries, and the ingredients she used were specific. She used Rice Krispies because in Bangladesh (or Calcutta) we use puffed rice (muri), and rice krispies is a pretty close substitute for it (nowadays more authentic muri is easily available at Indian and Bangladeshi grocery stores).

    Here’s a recipe of jhaal muri, just scroll down to the entry “J” for Jhaal Muri for a picture of the snack and the recipe:

    http://masalamagic.blogspot.com/

    It was funny because I watched the film at the Grove near Melrose (in California), and my brother and I looked at each other and laughed when the audience all laughed after that scene, because we knew it was something they didn’t get!

    Anyway I hope you are well and my thoughts are with your community after the VA Tech tragedy.

    Reply

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