May 17, 2007

The Namesake

Title: The Namesake
Year: 2007
Cast: Irfan Khan, Tabu, Kalpen Modi, Subayasachi Chakravarthy, Zuleikha Robinson, Jacinda Ratcliff, Sahira Nair

I hate gushing about anything. But late into last night, I kept talking to my husband about The Namesake, having watched it yesterday evening with him, Alice (co auditor :D- there Alice, you are now a part of this- like it or not) and Steve (my rock of a friend who I have mentioned before on these webpages).

Alice and I ran off from work at the unheard of hour of 6:30pm, having worked a measly 10 hours (oh the evil irony of our work hours)- do not even think for a minute that I didn't make up for it- I started at work 7am the next day and 8am today.

The movie opens with a young Ashok (Irfan) travelling to Jamshedpur by train to see his grandfather. An older fellow passenger speaks to him, encouraging him to go abroad and see the world, which Ashok resists, saying he prefers to travel the world via reading- hinting that he wants to go back to the Nikolai Gogol he is currently engrossed in. At that moment, the train crashes, and Ashok's life is changed forever.

Ashok survives the crash and while in convalescence, begins to rethink his life. Two years pass, and we next see him in Kolkata- we learn that he has since moved to New York, and is now back to find a wife. His parents arrange a match for him with Ashima (Tabu). Tabu's intro is perhaps my favorite scene in any movie in a long time. While waiting to go into the living room where Ashok, his parents and her family are talking, she pauses in the hall, and notes that the visitors have taken off their shoes- most attractive of which she finds Ashok's "Made In USA" pair. She slips in her feet and pantomimes an imaginary Ashok, revealing at once her own exuberance, independence and dreams.

A quick wedding follows, and Ashima settles herself in New York, rearing 2 kids Gogol (Kalpen) and Sonia (Sahira). The kids grow up, she becomes a librarian. Gogol undergoes the process of self-realization, which is the focal point of the movie since after all, he is the namesake. However, Irfan and Tabu steal the movie and make it the soul-searing experience that it is. Irfan speaks volumes with his eyes, his gestures. He doesn't speak very much in the film- but makes every movement count. He dies- alone, of a heart-attack while on a lecturing stint out of state- at which point me and Alice were crying copiously and loudly in the theatre.

Upon Ashok's death, Ashima regathers the threads of her life. She gets Gogol (unsuccessfully) and Sonia (hopefully she fares better- we never find out) married, sells her house, and moves back to Kolkata to learn music- something she had left behind when she married. And this is where the movie closes- with Ashima practicing her music with the same teacher from her youth and Gogol rediscovering himself via Nikolai's writings and his father's memories.

This movie is perhaps Tabu's best ever. Where in Maachis she was the authentic Punjaban, in Hera Pheri the quintessential Maharashtrian, here she is the Bengali soul. How she accomplishes her characters is unfathomable to me- I am just blown away by her work. Through Ashima, she makes me see my own strengths and weaknesses- my energy, my need to embrace my Indian-ness and my goal of continuous self-actualization.

1 Quibble about the movie- the gratuitous nudity- it really wasn't needed. I am not a prude in the least, and do believe that nudity is sometimes necessary to a movie- any James Bond flick would be incomplete without it. But Mira Nair needs to realise that she is a global director enough by the classiness of her movie- naked butts, when needless, don't make a movie international/Oscar worthy- her craftsmanship is ample!

PS: Some very cool cameos- Subayasachi Chakravarthy as Ashima's dad- I LOVE his work! Also, the authoress Jhumpa Lahiri, in the movie based on her own Pulitzer-winning book as Jhumpa Maashi!

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