By Wayne Aronsen | Image property of Fox Searchlight.
India produced close to 1,000 films last year; Hollywood, about 550. A major player in Indian films, Ronnie Screwvala, joined forces with Fox, to produce and acquaint American audiences with Indian filmmakers in the recent release of The Namesake. A film that easily stands on it’s own as one of this year’s best.
Movie Review: The Namesake
Mira Nair’s delicate directing preserves the tension, humor, and calamities of an Indian family starting anew in America. The fierce traditions of one culture are cast into the wide open, yet lonely landscape of New York City. Refreshingly, we are spared the talk of politics or race-- except in some brief classroom encounters-- keeping us focused on the peacefulness and grace of the characters.
Tabu, and Ifran Kahn play the immigrant mother and father, Ashima and Ashoke, brought together by an arranged marriage in India. He comes to American with a professorship at a University; but it is her presence, growth and influence that dominate the film. We travel into the next generation, their two children grown and overtly trying to shed their Indian background. Their son, Gogol, is played by the American actor, Kal Penn (of some forgettable American films of the National Lampoon variety) who maintains the tension between his success as a cosmopolitan New York architect and the son of immigrants. Penn is superb. He and his mother (Tabu), brighten the film with their understated humor, affection and conflicts.
Namesake is about family without the falseness of theatrics. Its sincerity and elegance speak to the best in us, and we can leave the theater gratified at seeing characters of depth and superior cross-cultural filmmaking.