Monday, October 23, 2006

The Namesake

It rained all day today and we were reluctant to leave our flat, but leave it we did to watch The Namesake at the Odeon West End in Leicester Square. I always get excited when I see an Indian movie at the cinema because it's one of those rare times outside of Diwali or Puja when I see so many Indian families gathered together.

When I saw the epic Lagaan in Oxford a few years ago, I enjoyed the many sets of Indian families - children, parents and grandchildren - tucking into the samosas or pakoras they'd smuggled into the cinema in tupperware boxes as much as I enjoyed the film. I loved the sight of so many sari-clad women as much as the movie Monsoon Wedding, which I also saw in Oxford. What I loved about tonight was the many Indian and mixed-English-Asian couples in the audience.

And of course, the film itself. I first read The Namesake by Bengali writer Jhumpa Lahiri a few years ago and remember being thoroughly immersed in the story of Bengali-origin, American-born Gogol Ganguli. I thoroughly identified with the highs and lows of being born to Bengali-immigrant parents in a western country and enjoyed following his story as he
negotiated childhood and then adulthood and struggled to define himself as independent from his parents and their culture.

But what made the film extra special was the focus on Gogol's parents, Asima and Asoke. The film followed them from their first meeting and arranged marriage in India, through their move to cold and depressing New York City, to their voyage through parenthood as they adjusted their Indian mindset to that of their American children in the suburbs.

A very special epic.

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