I loved this movie. It told a very poignant and optimistic story about the Ganguli family, starting with the parents and then focusing on the struggles of their son Gogol as he tries to find his identity. Ashoke and Ashima enter an arranged marriage knowing very little about each other. Ashoke is an engineer pursuing his PhD in New York and has already spent time away from India, while Ashima has never left India or been on a plane before. Their marriage and move to New York set the tone for the rest of the movie. Ashoke has become accustomed to American ways while still fully connecting with his Indian culture. Ashima misses India dearly and treasures their traditions, but settles in eventually because of the encouragement and optimism of her husband. They eventually have two children, the firstborn being their son Gogol. Gogol was meant to be a nickname and his parents decided later that his good name would be Nikhil, but as a child he decides he wants to be called Gogol. His name becomes a major part of the movie and apart of his cross-cultural journey into adulthood. When Gogol is about to go to college he tells his parents that he is going to change his name to Nikhil. The name is something that will hold him back in different areas of life, particularly his professional and love life. It here when Gogol learns the significance of his name, coming from his father’s favorite author and represents a life changing event for Ashoke that inspired him to leave India and take opportunities is America, the same opportunities he now wants Gogol to have. He has been immersed in a different life with his girlfriend Max and distancing himself from his family, until his father suffers a fatal heart attack. This is one of many turning points in Gogol’s life that put him in search of himself.
This was an excellent movie about family and culture, but it also offers us a look into the Hindu practices that are interwoven into the celebration of important life events. For example, the two wedding ceremonies that are shown in the film incorporated rituals that are associated with Hinduism. When Ashoke passed away he was cremated which is Hindu tradition, his only son conducted the last rites and lit the pyre, and the families behavior alluded to the Hindu tradition that the bereaved spend time together and keep to themselves as they grieve and await for the ancestral offerings to be completed. The film also showed the families experiences in America and India, pointing out that no matter where they were Ashoke and Ashima carried their culture with them. This is an example of how Hinduism and other religions have become diversified and universal in a sense. Learning about someone else or figuring out your own identity involves investigating your religious or spiritual beliefs along with the culture you were born into and that you have adapted to over time.