The Namesake by Jhumpa LahiriJhumpa Lahiris Interpreter of Maladies established this young writer as one the most brilliant of her generation. Her stories are one of the very few debut works -- and only a handful of collections -- to have won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Among the many other awards and honors it received were the New Yorker Debut of the Year award, the PEN/Hemingway Award, and the highest critical praise for its grace, acuity, and compassion in detailing lives transported from India to America.
In The Namesake, Lahiri enriches the themes that made her collection an international bestseller: the immigrant experience, the clash of cultures, the conflicts of assimilation, and, most poignantly, the tangled ties between generations. Here again Lahiri displays her deft touch for the perfect detail — the fleeting moment, the turn of phrase — that opens whole worlds of emotion.
The Namesake takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. On the heels of their arranged wedding, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An engineer by training, Ashoke adapts far less warily than his wife, who resists all things American and pines for her family. When their son is born, the task of naming him betrays the vexed results of bringing old ways to the new world. Named for a Russian writer by his Indian parents in memory of a catastrophe years before, Gogol Ganguli knows only that he suffers the burden of his heritage as well as his odd, antic name.
Lahiri brings great empathy to Gogol as he stumbles along the first-generation path, strewn with conflicting loyalties, comic detours, and wrenching love affairs. With penetrating insight, she reveals not only the defining power of the names and expectations bestowed upon us by our parents, but also the means by which we slowly, sometimes painfully, come to define ourselves.
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If you want to study the difference between Bollywood and serious Indian film-makers, endure Vipul Shah's Namastey London, which opened here last week, and then enjoy Mira Nair's The Namesake, which opens this week. Both are about social and cultural change in the Indian diaspora, and the arranged marriages of lively, intelligent daughters. But Namastey London is an overblown, escapist fantasy featuring caricatures and stereotypes, regularly breaking into song and dance and far removed from everyday life. The Namesake, adapted by Sooni Taraporevala from a book by the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jhumpa Lahiri, is about the hopes, disappointments, pains and consolations of life over some 40 years as experienced by Ashima beautiful Bollywood star Tabu , a Bengali girl who marries an Indian scientist Ashoke, Irfan Khan , settles in America and has two children. The film is dedicated to two towering figures from India's alternative cinema, Bengali directors Ritwik Ghatak and Satyajit Ray, to whom Nair, who has made such films as Salaam Bombay and Monsoon Wedding , is a worthy heir. The movie begins in with Ashoke reading Gogol's collected stories on a train while being lectured on the need to travel the world by a middle-aged fellow passenger.
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The film was produced by Indian , American and Japanese studios. The Namesake received positive reviews from American critics. Through a series of miscues, their son's nickname, Gogol named after Ukrainian author Nikolai Gogol , becomes his official birth name, an event which will shape many aspects of his life. The story chronicles Gogol's cross-cultural experiences and his exploration of his Indian heritage, as the story shifts between the United States and India. Gogol becomes a lazy, pot smoking teenager indifferent to his cultural background.