Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Namesake - Review

Around 7-8 months back, I saw a preview trailer of The Namesake in NY. From that day on I longed to see the complete feature film. Was that wait worth it? 'Yes' to a large extent. Its a film that you would appreciate if you tried unravelling what each scene tried to convey, if you did not mind being a part of the journey of the Ganguli(yes, its not Ganguly!) family and if you let your soul exposed to feel the awkwardness of a newly wed in a foreign land or a father telling his son why he named him the way he did.

There is a lot of subtleness in the presentation. In totality it is a film with a soul in place but you take time to gauge its form. There is nothing over the top about the film and that makes it all the more likeable. Before I get down to speaking better things about the film, let me state a few facts which are more of answers to the FAQs that people have in general about the film:

- It is not Monsoon Wedding - II with the Punjabi set-up replaced with a Bengali one.
- It is not a spicy masala flick!
- It isn't India centric or nationalistic. The characters could well have been from Timbactoo. The film focusses on the lives of a family that moved out of its homeland to eke out a living in a different land, their struggle, their triumph, their journey through life and the assimilation of cultures. No culture is shown in a lesser light.

The only thing that might go against it commercially in India is its subtleness. You need to be fully immersed into the film to understand what Ashok means when he takes his son Gogol on a beach and asks him to remember that day forever and remember that they walked to a place beyond which there was no where to go!

The ending however seems a bit weak overall. The interest wanes off towards the end and its just the individual scenes that hold it together. The fact that it wraps up in all of two hours saves the film here. Maybe Mira Nair needed to rein in the plot towards the end.

Now getting back to the usual business of giving you the reasons of going to watch it.

a.) Mira Nair - There are films and there is life and then you have The Namesake. Throughout the two hours, the only things that reminded me that I was watching a film and not sharing real life space with the Ganguli family were the Rs. 160 ticket in my pocket, the screeching mobile phones (people lack the etiquettes really!), the pop-corn eating couple beside me and the 5 minute interval. I bow to the finnesse of the supremely talented Mira Nair.

b.) Tabu, Irfan Khan, Kal Penn - Tabu shows wht she and not Aishwarya has it in her to become the face of Indian films abroad. Aishwarya Rai is beautiful, but she isn't half as good an actress as Tabu is. She excels in the character she portrays. The film would never have looked the way it does without her.

Irfan Khan was stuck in the Haasil mould in most of the mainstream bollywood movies that he did but the actor proves beyond doubt that he can perform any character with as much conviction as he portrayed Ranvijay Singh's. He brings Ashok Ganguli's character to life. Not just the body language, also watch out for his perfect bengali accent.

Kal Penn finally seems to have found his niche in Hollywood. Its a coming of age film for him. Despite the Harold and Kumar in White Castle success, he never really made it as a Hollywood actor but with Namesake he sure has made the world look with surprise at him. Acting is no joke and he has proved it big time.

c.) Story-Script-Screenplay: Frankly speaking I liked the individual scenes more than the story in its entirety. I got the film's message but not the story as a whole.

The scenes that I loved the most:

- Ashok bidding Ashima adieu one last time at the airport before going on his teaching assignment.
- Gogol coming to claim his father's body and then visiting his apartment
- Ashok telling Gogol the reason for naming him the way he did in the car
- The climax scene where Ashok asks Gogol to remember their standing at the beach forever in a falshback. Awesome!

On the whole I found the film interesting enough to hold my attention through the two hours. I would recommend it to people who love to appreciate the finer nuances of film making in their own small/smart way. For all those masala loving folks, watch out for the transformation that Moushmi's character makes in the film in the Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahi style with the only difference being that this one looks a lot more sexier!

BTW, there is also a remix version of the yesteryear hit from Mukesh - "Ye mera deewanapan hai". All purists might cringe but I just loved it!

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