And now that the dust has settled and the knees are wobbly after the standing ovation, it is time to introspect on The Namesake. I never read fiction by Indian authors. I find it painful to read prose dedicated to the clouds over a hill station or mangoes in an orchard. I am not even moved by the backwaters of Kerala and the charms that lie in the fishing nets cast against the setting sun. Mercifully, I did not read Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake. But I was rather eager to watch the film.
At this juncture, I must present my family’s genetic flaws. I am a Punjabi who has lived all his life in Kolkata, married to a Bengali who has spent considerable time in Delhi. We have sons who have shifted schools six times across three cities. We haven’t done New Jersey yet, but with football in the American School every weekend and a Korean as our children’s best friend, we are buggered up as Gogol, Ashima and Ashok.
An Indian family’s dilemma in the US is old, warm beer. So as a subject, The Namesake, is no apple falling on Newton’s head. The film is long and bereft of a finite point. What is the crux of the plot? That young Gogol is pissed with his name? So am I. Every driver in Kolkata is called Swapan. Does that call for some cinematic outcry? I think not.
Irfaan Khan is competent. He had less to say, loads to smoke. The critics are talking about his intensity. He is intense in everything he does. No fresh cream here.
Tabu. Great actress. Does a decent job of a mother coming to terms with a changed life. But beyond that I see no Golden Statue within sniffing distance for the lassie. An atrocious Bengali accent to boot. Kal Penn has an easy role to play. He has done a zillion of ABCD roles: Watch Where’s The Party Dude?
Sure the film has its gooses: when Gogol shaves his head after Irfaan passes away, you feel like giving him a gummy bear. The Namesake is an average film. The camera work is patchy, dialogues shallow. The only decent line in the film is the tagline. And, yes, Divya Thakur does a half decent job of the credit graphics. But it’s Mira Nair, boys and girls.
Therefore, the enthusiasm is completely understandable. The impassioned ‘oohs’ are quite the right thing. Had Jagmohan Mundhra made it, we would have pelted the boy with pebbles. But that is where I think Provoked will score over The Namesake.
Provoked deals with an issue. One that is seriously wanting in the plot of The Namesake.