The Namesake

I have read some of Jhumpa Lahiri’s work, but I have never got a chance to read her book, the Namesake. I heard a great deal about this movie, so I was curious going into it. The Namesake was a much different movie than Slumdog Millionaire in the way it treated globalization. At first, I found myself understanding Gogol’s insecurities as he grew up. As a second generation Indian American, I also was made of fun when I was a kid because of my name. When I was young, this did bother me too, but as I grew up, I started to understand the significance of my name and culture. It was odd because I felt like I should have related more to Gogol, but as the movie progressed, I felt more and more like Gogol was just plain stubborn. I started to envy the relationship between Ashima and Ashoke. I found this really weird.

I thought the Namesake was much more complex in its view of globalization. For example, Gogol talks back to his mother, smokes weed, and ignores his parents. I thought this was an obvious allusion to the negative influences of western culture. Personally, I believe this idea is a little overplayed in my culture, but that’s just me. Yet, Ashoke believes in America “anything is possible”, and he repeats this line a couple of times. What I found interesting is the tone of his voice when he says the phrase. When Ashima has Sonia, he reasons with her that their children can do anything here, unlike in India. Later in the movie, he says the phrase again when his son wants to change his name, but this time, he says it in a more somber way. I think the movie, unlike Slumdog Millionaire, makes you question the melting of cultures much more. Even Ashima at the end of the movie tells the people gathered that this is where she grew to love her husband, and U.S. is also her home. The message I gathered was this country gives us freedom, but that also means, we have to live with the consequences. I also noticed this because Maxine, Gogol’s first girlfriend, never seems like she is forcing Gogol to spend time with her family. Instead, its Gogol’s choice and this is one of the many themes the movie is addressing.

I have never watched a Mira Nair film before, but I noticed there were a lot of aesthetical elements to the movie that I found interesting. There were many scenes in the movie where the view of the bridge, a metaphor for connection, was juxtaposed with isolation. Also, when Ashoke dies everyone is white, while Maxine is in black, and this is also referenced in the article. I thought this meant there was clear distinction between east and west. Furthermore, some of the humor I enjoyed, like when Gogol says if you forget anyone’s name, all you have to do is call them “aunty”. Another comical scene was when Ashima puts the chili powder into the rice crispy treats. Or when Ashima and Ashoke touch hands at the Taj Mahal, but when the see their son, they slowly move them away awkwardly. In their culture, they are not suppose to be seen touching in public, especially in front of their children. The movie plays with this idea because when they see Maxine and Gogol touching later in the film, they make a judgment themselves. At the end of the day, although I have some issues with the movie, I enjoyed it. What bothered me the most was the lack of subtitles when they were speaking Bengali, and the lack of explanation of the flashback train scene with Ashoke.

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