There are so many different cultures around the world that we may never be able to get a definitive answer to what that number is. Some of these cultures may share quite a few similarities in some ways and others may be completely different in every way imaginable. Regardless of where we come from, I think it’s safe to say that most of us view our cultures as being important and a part of who we are. Based on her film The Namesake, I get a feeling that Mira Nair may very well agree with me.
After being put together in an arranged marriage, Ashoke (Irrfan Khan) and Ashima (Tabu) move to New York from India to start a life in America. They now have to get accustomed to each other while still learning and adjusting to a much different life than they had before. They soon have two children and one of them grows into a rebellious teenager (Kal Penn) that doesn’t embrace much of the culture of his parents and adopts a more Americanized lifestyle. As he grows up he begins to question some of his own choices as he looks at both his culture and the one in which his parents come from.
In this film, there was a legitimate level of believability and chemistry that came from the primary actors. Watching them was like watching a real family. They were easy to connect with and the acting was wonderful since it never felt overstated or forced in the slightest. Partially because of the actors, the story develops a sense of normalcy right from the very beginning and comes off as a sincere depiction of a family. The actors are not only great here, but they lend themselves to a story that is very well done.
The Namesake contains a story that talks about generational and cultural gaps from the perspectives of two Indian born parents and their two U.S. born children. It focuses on a story about finding your way around a new world and also learning and appreciating yourself and your culture. All of this is shown through one family and over the course of 25 years. The story shifts from Ashoke (Khan) and Ashima (Tabu) to their kids (mainly their son) while teaching about the experiences and life changes that they must come face to face with. They manage to stuff all of this and much more into basically two hours with no problems.
The credit for that not only goes to the actors, but also to the director Mira Nair. Nair is a director who is clearly skillful at what she does and is able to create a film that appears to come directly from her heart. She takes her time to illustrate some of the family issues and cultural differences that are to be expected in these situations and looks at the emotions that can stem from them. She made something that was smooth, articulate and aware of itself that’s plausible and fulfilling all the way through the end.
The Namesake is a movie that’s earned my appreciation for the simple fact that it knew what it was and executed it effortlessly. It’s a loving film that has its heart focused on family, understanding and self-respect. These are the attributes that help build a complete movie that is able to speak to people from various backgrounds through what looked like an actual family on-screen. If you want to watch a film based on life, growth and going full circle, this may be something you should look for.
Director: Mira Nair
Film Length: 122 minutes
March 9, 2007 (U.S.)
March 23, 2007 (India)
Fox Searchlight Pictures