Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (movie review)

Jhumpa Lahiri's touching novel about two generations of an Indian family and the cultural chasm between them has made the big screen, and is still in theatres--don't miss out!

This is the story of the Ganguli family. After Ashoke and Ashima wed in Calcutta, they emigrate to the United States, where Ashoke does his best to launch his carreer and adapt to his new country, and Ashima is left alone in their new home, where she feels profoundly homesick for her family and old life.

When their children are born, a new set of challenges arises: the customs of the American school system, raising children in a culture which is new to them, and accepting the paths their children decide to take with their lives. For their son and daughter, life also has challenges, especially for the older child, their son Gogol.

Besides the cultural challenges of pleasing his parents and fitting in with his friends, Gogol hates his name--Gogol Ganguli. There is a very interesting story behind his name, which he does not discover until later. Meanwhile, as Gogol matures into an adult, he tries on different interpretations of his heritage, and finds no easy answers.

I went to see this movie with both of my parents, and found it very touching. My father, Niks, who has not read the book yet, liked it very much and was very effected by it. TLP and I both liked the movie, but felt that the significance behind Gogol's name should have been illuminated to the audience (as it had been for the readers) much earlier in the film. Also, there were times when the movie had to do a lot of skipping around, because of the timespan it had to cover.

Verdict: The movie is very good--and, if you have the time, the book is well worth it.

Jhumpa Lahiri won a Pultizer in 2003 for her collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies.

An excellent webiste devoted to this movie.


TLP said...

Yep. Very good book, and a good movie too.

Minka said...

Ok, I´ll buy that book. bet my Mom would love to read it too. We are at the moment very much into Indian and Chinese literature and this will fit in nicely!