The essence of a novel taken to big screen lies in the way the originality of the book is preserved. It is highly important that the core values of the characters etched in the book is translated to perfectly similar characters on the big screen. It is not entirely impossible, but only very few film makers can pull off such a thing with absolute conviction. Mira Nair had a very tough job on her hands to maintain the standards of the brilliant book by Jhumpa Lahiri. At the end of the day, I now can understand why the entire crew was so confident of the movie.
I had the opportunity to view the movie at Seattle. I generally do not expect much from movies based on adaptations from literature because it is no easy task to realise the originality of the script. This was no different though all the reviews were positive. The movie started off in a brilliant Calcutta setting, reeling off titles in English embedded in Bengali script. The start itself gave me a feeling of an unknown authenticity. I don't know why! Tabu, clad in a beautiful saree, starts her early morning veena recital sending the viewers into a trance. It is just that the scene is set in such an emphatic way that it captures your attention instantly. From then on, Mira Nair takes us through a journey that matches the story in the book to an absolute nicety. The way Ashima (Tabu) meets Ashok Ganguly (Irfan Khan), a nondescript young man from New York looking for a bride back home, is a perfect picture of shyness confronting shyness. That's the way it was way back in early seventies, where the bride and the groom had little chance for interaction. Then it reflects the struggle and the trauma that Ashima has to undergo to live through hostile living conditions in an alien country. It also gives a perfect psyche of parents whose kids are born and brought up in a foreign land. Finally, it is a battle for the parents to maintain the identity of the children as conservative patriotic Indians versus their determination to break the shackles of such thoughts and join the mainstream American society. Gogol, their son, portrayed by Kal Penn is a perfect symbol of such convoluted thoughts as in the end he doesn't know which path to follow. His confusion is highlighted by his inability to enjoy the perfect Indian culture as well as to break into an American style of living. At every point, he questions his parents about his name and is totally unhappy with it. The scene where he gets to know the true significance of his name paralyses him with an unexplainable sorrow and grief. Truly brilliant!
The film sails through the ups and downs in the lives of the Gangulys, sketching each scene with true artistic flavour. In such a character based movie, it is important to find the right people to play the right roles. Mira Nair has got the best out of her actors. The music and cinematography are classy. At the end of the movie, one has to walk out of the theater with a touch of pathos. The namesake has conveyed the right message out of the book. Definitely worth watching!