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The Namesake

4.3 out of 5 stars 301 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

American-born Gogol, the son of Indian immigrants, wants to fit in among his fellow New Yorkers, despite his family's unwillingness to let go of their traditional ways.


Adapted by screenwriter Sooni Taraporevala from the novel by Jhumpa Lahiri, director Mira Nair's The Nameksake is populated by well-drawn characters and filled with memorable shots and engaging scenes. But in the larger sense, the film is a provocative look at the two sides of immigration: the adjustments faced by a couple who move here from a distant land, and the struggles of their offspring to reconcile their parents' traditional culture with their own distinctly American outlook. The tale begins in the late '70s, when aspiring engineer Ashoke Ganguli (Irfan Khan) and his new wife Ashima (the radiant Tabu) move to New York from Calcutta. Life in America is strange, in ways both good (the gas in their apartment stays on 24 hours a day! You can drink water straight from the tap!) and not-so-hot (New York's winters). But for their children, first son Gogol (a standout performance by Kal Penn, heretofore best known for the stoner comedy Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle), nicknamed for his father's favorite author, the Russian novelist Nikolai Gogol, and then daughter Sonia (Sahira Nair), "the American way" is at odds with their folks' more conservative mores. Gogol (who later adopts his more formal first name, Nikhil) smokes dope, calls his parents "you guys," goes to Yale, and hooks up with a preppie white girl (Jacinda Barrett); for her part, Sonia complains that she wants to "go home" when the family returns to India for a visit. Only when tragedy strikes suddenly does the young man realize how totally alienated from his family he has become, prompting some major changes. There's nothing especially original about any of this, and even those who haven't read the book may sense that some of Lahiri's material has been lost on the way to the screen (the treatment of Gogol's marriage to a beautiful Bengali-American girl, played by Zuleikha Robinson, seems oddly truncated). But even while dealing with life's Big Issues (birth and death, marriage and separation, joy and misery), Nair has created a winning, intimate film that reminds us of the strength of family ties and effortlessly persuades us to care. --Sam Graham

Kal Penn Blogs About The Namesake

Welcome to The Namesake DVD. After touring the festival circuit last year, our film opened globally (including North America) in March of this year, and I’m proud to bring you the DVD!

This is a project that has been close to me from the beginning. I was a big fan of the book ever since John Cho recommended it to me during the first Harold & Kumar shoot. John and I tried to get rights to turn the book into the film, but Mira [Nair, director of Monsoon Wedding and Salaam Bombay] had already acquired them. That began a really aggressive campaign on my part to try to get seen for the role. I’d call Mira’s office, have my manager call – but we had no luck in getting in the door. Luckily, unbeknownst to me, Mira’s son Zohran and her agent’s son Sam were lobbying on my behalf (turns out they are huge Harold and Kumar fans, so they were trying to get their parents to bring me in to read for the part of Gogol). Mira finally agreed, and I got a call saying that I’d be able to audition. I flew out to New York, and luckily things worked out.

There are some similarities between my life and Gogol’s. We are both Americans of Indian descent, both born and raised on the East Coast, both bilingual, and both passionate about our careers. But Gogol is much more subdued than I am; he carries a certain silence (which he gets from his father). His place in the world is one of constant shift -- a byproduct of being single in New York, being passionate about his job, close with his family, and so on.

This film is my favorite to -date. Mira has been a role model of mine since I was very young, Jhumpa [Lahiri, author of The Namesake] is one of my favorite authors, Sooni [Taraporevala, screenwriter for Salaam Bombay] one of my most admired screenwriters, so it’s an honor to have the chance to be part of the screen adaptation of this story.

To me, it’s a very American film. It’s about family, about hope – about how we all got here, through the lens of this particular family. With so much negativity every time I turn on the television, I’m proud to be part of something that hopefully leaves the audience with a tremendous amount of hope, and a connection to the people we love. -- Kal Penn

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Kal Penn, Irrfan Khan, Tabu, Jacinda Barrett, Zuleikha Robinson
  • Directors: Mira Nair
  • Writers: Jhumpa Lahiri, Sooni Taraporevala
  • Producers: Mira Nair, Anadil Hossain, Dinaz Stafford, Lori Keith Douglas, Lydia Dean Pilcher
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Surround), Spanish (Dolby Surround)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Dubbed: Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • Studio: Fox Searchlight
  • DVD Release Date: November 27, 2007
  • Run Time: 122 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (301 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000U2U0E4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,800 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Namesake" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mark Barry TOP 500 REVIEWER on August 13, 2007
Format: DVD
This movie deals with Bengali culture in India and families both in their native lands and abroad - and I have to say is one of the most satisfying and beautiful watches I had the pleasure of sitting down to. To an Irishman of 49 and typical multiplex type, I'd admit that most of the cast is unrecognizable to me, but that makes no odds, because all are uniformly superb. And I love the insights the film gives into a culture as fascinating as theirs.

It begins in 1977 when a young Bengali man (who has been to study in the USA since 1974) is back in his native Calcutta to meet his new bride - one that is picked out for him whether he likes her or not. He is Ashoke, an engineer with prospects - played subtly and gently by a fantastic Irrfan Khan. Ashoke gets real lucky - his bride is the quietly beautiful Ashima (it means limitless, played by the gorgeous Bollywood star Tabu). Waiting with her parents, Ashoke looks uncomfortable but resigned - its been done this way for centuries. Before Ashima goes into the room to see him for the first time - she tries on his American shoes he's left outside the room - they fit and she likes them - a good sign. Ashima takes them off and meekly enters - ultra respect to her elders. Ashoke is not traditionally handsome, but his big soppy bug-eyes and equally studious glasses tell you that this is a good man - and an intelligent one. They marry in full traditional dress and custom. Ashima waves her family goodbye at the airport and then on to New York.

Life in America is foreign to her, but she adapts. Besides, something else is happening that makes it all bearable; Ashima is slowly but surely falling in love with her 'chosen' husband.
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Director Mira Nair's The Namesake (based on the novel) is the story of a Bengali family's journey through life in New York after emigrating from India. Their son Gogol (Kal Penn) is caught in a culture gap between his parents' old traditions of India and the clashing modern ways of the United States.

I have to admit I didn't know much about Indian culture prior to seeing this film; not the way I knew about the Japanese, the Chinese, the French, and Italians, anyway. It was easy to relate to the family's alienation and feelings of loneliness. On top of the generation gap between their parents and them, Gogol (whose father named after Russian writer Nikolai Gogol) and his sister Sonia struggle to understand their parents' take on life. The film skillfully deals with life's most important issues and stays in touch with the essence of the characters. The cinematography is beautiful and the performances are heartfelt. Kal Penn sheds his stoner image from Harold and Kumar to deliver his most poignant performance to date. The film does tend to drag a bit in certain places, but the overall experience is an enjoyable one.

Well written characters and script, great actors, and a talented director make this one a must-see for aficionados of foreign and art-house films. If you've always wondered what it's like to come from a different country and be immersed in a society such as America, then see this film. It's not a film meant for the mass audiences, but it achieves what it set out to do.
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Meticulously observed and wonderfully heartfelt, this time-spanning 2007 family dramedy represents a return to form for director Mira Nair, who faltered somewhat with 2004's elaborate but lugubrious "Vanity Fair". This one is also a literary adaptation but this time from a contemporary best-seller by Jhumpa Lahiri, who wrote an emotionally drawn story about first generation Bengali immigrants to the United States and their U.S.-born children. It's an intricate book full of careful nuances, and Nair, along with screenwriter Sooni Taraporevala, captures most of them in a most loving manner. The story speaks fluently to the universal struggle to extricate ourselves from the obligation of family and a perceived enslavement to the past. Nair and Taraporevala manage to transcend the necessarily episodic nature of the novel to make it an involving journey toward self-acceptance.

The film initially focuses on Ashoke Ganguli and his arranged marriage to Ashima, a classically trained singer. The young couple move from Calcutta in 1977 to Queens in order for him to pursue his career as an electrical engineer. The adjustment is difficult, especially for Ashima in assimilating into the often cold U.S. culture, and these quiet scenes show a keen eye for subtle observation. They quickly have two children in succession, son Gogol and daughter Sonia. Gogol's name is the key plot point as he was inadvertently after Ashoke's favorite writer, Nikholai Gogol, and this is revealed to have greater significance as the story unfolds. Eventually, the film switches the perspective to Gogol's as he grows up, changes his name to Nikhil and starts his life as a yuppie architect in Manhattan.
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Jhumpa Lahiri's international bestseller's screen adaptation, Namesake though not in the same league as the book, is a compelling work of art in its own rights. Though not significantly altered from the novel, the movie's script provides a distinctly different treatment to the way characters are depicted. As a consequence, Namesake the movie, is in many ways is more of a depiction of the life and experiences of Ashima Ganguli than that of Gogol Ganguli (the person who is meant to be the Namesake). Nonetheless, the movie is an insightful portrayal of a lifecycle of an immigrant family - including some brilliant scenes and some tender moments of exquisite emotional glory.

The acting of Tabu (as Ashima Ganguli) and Irfan Khan (as Ashok Ganguli) is of a very high standard. Their comfort in the role of immigrant parents is numbingly realistic. Irfan Khan stands out for bringing a typical immigrant father's character almost live to the screen. He is aware of his children's needs for different perspectives and practices than his own, but at the same time he is uncomfortable at their departure from values he holds dearest to his heart. In her portrayal of an immigrant Indian wife and mother, Tabu has attained excellence in her typical style.

Along with these outstanding characters, coexists a characterization that is less appealing than you would expect from a Mira Nair movie's protagonist. Gogol Ganguli's dilemmas and struggle for an identity have been dealt with in rather brief scenes, and the themes have not emerged well. That is why his reasons for refusing a girl with whom he was happy, and instead loving and marrying a girl, who eventually hurt him, are obvious only if you have an immigrant perspective.
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