Tuesday, May 08, 2007


When Jhumpa Lahiri’s work THE NAMESAKE became a film it raised interest among Indian audiences because a book by an immigrant Indian author being made into a film by another immigrant Indian, Mira Nair. Questions were many - “Will it be loyal to the book?” “Was the book suited for adaptation to celluloid?” “How close can one portray on celluloid the immigrant’s reality?”

Well, to say that Mira Nair has achieved great degree of success in this “Immigrant’s Tale” will make the film sound one for the Indian immigrant. But watch the film and you’ll know that it’s the searing pain that every immigrant undergoes be it the Middle East,the Continent, the US or even your own neighbouring state.

It has been said of the film that it is an American tale for the Indian and an Indian tale for the American. Well labels do not matter, what matters is that the film has touched us. Mira Nair’s has been a casting coup, I believe. Irfan Khan as Ashoke Ganguly and Tabu as Ashima his wife have done a splendid job. So has Karl Penn as the son Gogol.

The diasporic existence comes through. For the first generation the land is one of opportunities but ultimately he must get back home. The second generation cannot think of any place else other than the land where his parents held ’immigrant’ status as home, b’cos he is born here and has lived there.

But is it the name, is it the colour, that they find assimilation is never complete. “I feel my children are strangers,” says the mother, because they live the American life, or the son does not understand why ‘Gogol’ is important to his father. “Don’t call us ‘guys’, we are your parents. Understood.”

Mira Nair’s THE NAMESAKE is a well executed film. Some may accuse her of having made it for an international audience but she is a filmmaker who enjoys that status. One cannot ignore the fact that the NRI population is a major part of her audience. To say that she should not have any audience in mind when making the film would be unfair. The film must communicate and for that her audiences have to be reckoned with.

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