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'The Namesake': More than a name

When I went to watch The Namesake, I had no presumptions. I hadn't read the book by Jhumpa Lahiri on which it is based either. That's the way I do it: I never read reviews before buying a book or watching a movie...that's strange because I'm writing one...but let's call it one of life's little ironies.

All I knew about The Namesake was that it was a 'diaspora' movie - you know, the identity crisis fare. But what I found was that this is no ABCD (American-Born-Confused-Desi) movie but yes, it is about searching for one's identity. It's about Gogol Ganguly (Kal Penn) who realises that a man cannot change the threads binding him with the past by just changing his name. When Gogol decides to become Nikhil, he slowly moves away from his Bengali family - a sensible, strong mother (Tabu, playing the Great Indian Bengali woman) and a father drawing strenght from his culture (Irrfan Khan, playing with his usual conviction).

It is only with some personal losses that Gogol finds out what a variable man's identity is - a human being can be so many things at the same time. He sees that it is impossible to break ties with one's past, where's one's soul resides.

Gogol does not necessarily find his 'true identity' because there isn't one - you cannot describe a man in so many words. A man is the product of so many chapters in the book of life, chapters that are written even before he is born.


There's something of Gogol in all of us - we live multiple lives like him, and our heart tugs us in different directions. The director, Mira Nair makes this Bengali-English movie one for all of us - especially Indians, so brought up in diversity. There's so much I can say but the movie speaks it's own language.

My recommendation: watch it if you can, it may give you a different perspective of yourself.

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6 comments

Tarana said...

P.S.

On a personal note, I always thought the name given me (by my grandmother) was an Urdu word with an Indian origin. It is only recently that I found out it is of Persian origin - and it did make a difference to the way I think about my name.

Amodini said...

Tarana,
I tried reading Namesake but had to leave it unfinished, because frankly I couldn't get over the extended descriptions of "Bengaliness". Boring. I look forward to seeing the movie though.

Adonis said...

The following lines of Shakespeare have such a strong impact, its not letting any other thing on NAME into my mind.

O Romeo, Romeo!—wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name.
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.

ROMEO. Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?

JULIET. ’Tis but thy name that is my enemy.
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? It is nor hand nor foot
Nor arm nor face nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name?

Hill Goat said...

This one may sound like one of those post-Edward Said cultural-difference apologists, but I loved the part when Gogol decides to get his head tonsured as a mark of respect for his father's last rites. The music at the shop would make one realise what skin-heads are seen as in the West. The sulky Gogol with a shining pate made that contrast even starker...

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I don't mean this in a bad way, of course! Ethical concerns aside... I just hope that as the price of memory decreases, the possibility of copying our brains onto a digital medium becomes a true reality. It's one of the things I really wish I could see in my lifetime.


(Posted on Nintendo DS running [url=http://cryst4lxbands.sosblog.com/-b/Will-the-R4-or-R4i-work-b1-p2.htm]R4i SDHC[/url] DS NetServ)

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