The Namesake

June, 2007, Drama

Directed by:Mira Nair

Indian director Mira Nair is an anomaly; a successful female writer/producer/director who manages to work continuously in her own country and here in the U.S., turning out movies that reflect her personal concerns and interests. She’s traced the achingly stunted opportunities available to India’s street children, (Salaam Bombay), explored the intricacies of inter-racial romance among America’s minorities, (Mississippi Masala), brought a Thackeray novel to the screen, (Vanity Fair) and introduced Anglo audiences to the lavishly sensual nuptial customs of her native country in Monsoon Wedding. How many women in the American film industry have been given the same opportunity to demonstrate such varied and sustained creativity? Not nearly enough…

In her latest film, Nair continues to explore of the vagaries of cultural assimilation, a theme which runs more or less continuously through all her work. Adapted from the best-selling novel by Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake examines, in the director’s typically quiet fashion, the marriage of Ashoke Ganguli, an Indian academic and his wife Ashima, who migrate to America and raise their two children far from the traditions which formed the environment in which the Gangulis themselves were raised. The film examines courtship rituals, familial obligations, ethnic self-image, social customs and the inevitable separation of the Ganguli children from their ancestral roots - - a chasm deftly observed in the struggle their son has with his name. As was the case with the far longer and more ambitious Italian film The Best of Youth, Namesake focuses on a single family and in telling its story, manages to convey a life-affirming impression of human frailty, innate human dignity and deep social cohesion. 

The verdict? An astutely drawn portrait of family life, presented with restraint, great feeling and insight.    

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