I loved The Namesake. I haven’t read the book yet but hope to read it someday soon. Tabu and Irrfan Khan are superb and Kal Penn (Kalpen Modi), of Harold and Kumar go to Whitecastle fame does a reasonable job. But in the end it’s a director’s movie and Mira Nair has just bettered her effort from Monsoon Wedding. I can’t believe that the same person made the trashy Kamasutra movie. I can’t be too critical of it though. If I were 19, I would probably still bunk classes to watch that movie. I haven’t watched her other acclaimed movies though, neither Salaam Bombay nor Missisippi Masala (make mental note).
The risk with English movies having Indian characters is the language. In a movie which obviously wants to portray real people, how does the filmmaker balance the language necessities along with realism? In this movie Mira Nair just about gets it right, mingling Bengali with English now and then, though I wished there was a little more sprinkling of the native language in the communications between Ashoke and Ashima, Irrfan and Tabu’s characters in the movie.
The movie is beautifully shot, especially in Calcutta as the director’s camera caresses the hustle and bustle of the vibrant city capturing its myriad details as those who have lived in the city can identify with. The totem of bridges is consistently seen throughout the movie drawing a parallel with the lives that the characters lead across the continents. The pace of the movie is set early and one settles in quickly to view a story unfold unhurriedly across cities and generations.
Irrfan is brilliant as the caring husband and the uncommunicative but clearly doting father. He does the difficult job of conveying his character to the audience through minimum lines at his disposal with aplomb and the right measure of gravitas. But while Ashoke remains true from beginning to end, it’s Tabu who has to depict Ashima’s travels from a spunky girl to an eager-to-please wife, to a frustrated and irritable mother and finally, a widow who moves on and finds life on her own. This, she does, and how. Kal Penn is funny and cool as the rebellious teenager and understandable as the young man who tries to ‘fit in’ (which he does successfully) to the adopted country of his parents. Though he acquits himself well, you kind of feel that he doesn’t have the range which his role demanded and the movie slacks (just a bit) because of this. The other actors do their parts without messing anything up.
The score by DJ Nithin (I think) is a pleasing blend of the east and west and accentuates the mood and pace of the movie. Almost every scene in the movie is a treat but here’s the trailer along with this memorable scene for you.
Go see it!