The Namesake is based on a great, emotional novel of the same name by Jhumpa Lahiri. Like all over immigrants coming to the United States to fit in, The Namesake tackles upon the idea of changing our names to fit in. Much is made of this in the movie, like it is in the book.
Seen primarily through the eyes of Ashima, who marries Ashok, and moves to New York City and immediately feels like a complete stranger. They make it through and have two kids, Gogol and Sonia. The kids grow up to be completely American in their mind-set and attitudes towards life, much to the chagrin of the parents. Gogol, just having graduated from high school, has an white girlfriend Maxine. Through their several trips back to India, Gogol gets a sense of where his actual roots are, and thus begins an awakening in him as to where he is really from and the origin of his name, which actually is the highlight of the movie.
The story of Ashima and Ashok was the most entertaining thing in the movie, as we get to walk along with them settling in New York City, dealing with the conveniences of life (“do you know we get gas 24 hours a day”). In contrast to their story, the story of Gogol and Maxine seem rushed through, although that’s also quite entertaining. When a dramatic event takes place forcing Gogol to re-evaulate his identity and name, the rest of the movie falters and feels like as if the director just decided to wrap up the movie on the spot, which is a let down.
The movie does a good job of translating the book on to the screen, some parts even better than the book, but ultimately the book is a better deal than the movie. All actors have done a commendable job, especiall Tabu and Irrfan Khan, and credit ust be given to Kal Penn who has shown his ability to do some serious acting.
The identity of who we are and how we are defined by our name forms the crux of the movie as Gogol struggles with his name which others around him tease him for. I personally had issues with my name when growing up, but today, I realize that my name is not an accident but that I was meant to have it. Like Ashima says in the movie, “there are no accidents in life” and with that idea, I am convinced I was given the name Mansur because it means “victorious” and having to overcome the struggles in life, I am definitely the victorious one!
3 out of 5 for not being as deeply emotional as the book is.