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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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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. It's in these scenes that the film shows it true charm - it's so beautifully and realistically handled (many scenes returned to later in flashback to flesh out dialogue that is important and pivitol to the story). Their relationship is an evolving love, away from need and initial awkwardness into a mutual respect for each other. The believability of the two lead actors here is crucial - and you can feel their drawing together - year after year after year.

The story continues to both of their kids being born (a boy and a girl), then young, then grown up and full of New Yawk attitude and difficulty with the 'old ways' - even with their names. 1st born - and most rebellious - the boy's name is Gogol (played by Kal Penn), which he hates with a passion until he finds out why his father called him that (a train journey and a passenger who changed his life). Gogol and his sister's dual identities cause them both conflict and even heartache. They endure racism, work, snobbery, meet potential partners, they marry - and on it goes - to sad and joyful surprises as their life journey progresses. It's set across 25 years and there's a lot crammed in. (Gogul's sister Sonia is played by Sahira Nair)

The Namesake is as much about Indian culture (then and now) as it is about the power and pull of family - that one thing that unites us all with love and misery in equal measure! I can't recommend this movie enough - in my Top 20 with a bullet. A gentle and beautiful surprise I heartily recommend.

P.S.: Like Gustavo Santaolalla's music in "The Motorcycle Diaries" and "Babel", Nitin Sawhney's music is one of the reasons the movie has such slow and majestic power - an absolutely gorgeous soundtrack - and one I'm going to buy pronto!

P.P.S.: The title of this review is from the dedication in the credits.
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on 27 September 2007
The Namesake is an excellent written drama supported by high callibre acting, powerful storyline and outstanding cinemagraphy. The ingredients of a quality cinema making are clearly demonstrated. Namesake righteously deserve its string of positive reviews. It is a movie which I can strongly relate to, as I am second generation Indian Bengal similar to the characters featured in the story.

The principal theme of the movie is about divided loyalty split between Indian Bengal roots and the American roots. The movie opening seqences include the Ganguli first sample of modern American life in New York city, as a newly wed from Calcutta. The story develops to a full fledged family in surbanan area of New York, in which the siblings loyalty is severly tested throughout the movie. Gagol shows little interest in his culture and rebels.This includes a trip to India to visit their inheritance and explore the rich cultural roots. The story closely ressmbles a similar lifecyle of my parents life in the UK and closely ties with mine.

The quality of acting is superb, which adds a strong touch of credibility and solidarity to the characters featured in the story of a typical Asian family living in America.

The cinemagraphy is outstanding, with the movie constantly shifting between New York and Calcutta. You gain a real flavour of cultural roots from both sides of the globe. That comment of outstanding cinemagraphy is truly justified.

Overall, a drama of the highest quality which offers a realistic account from a second generation (siblings) and first generation (parents) perspective of the transaction to a new life. The movie contains elements of high drama and emotional for viewers to absorb in. I suggest you have a handkerchief handy as some viewers may shred some tears during partiuclar delicate moments of the movie. A brilliant drama which tackles the issue of how Western and Eastern values conflicts in the most simplified manner as possible. The Namesake is a movie which I can strongly relate being a second generation Bengali and for that reason it appeals to me.
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on 24 June 2007
The Namesake was for me a thoroughly enjoyable, excellently written and directed dramatic movie. A pot pourri of interesting characters, colourful scenery with a very realistic and insightful story. From Calcutta to New York, the movie is fully entertaining and the script brought to life by truly amazing actors.

Highly recommended.
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on 8 February 2008
If "The Namesake" had just been your usual coming-of-age story, it would be easily forgotten. But director Mira Nair ("Monsoon Wedding," "Vanity Fair") has gone beyond the usual confines of such a story to present a portrait of three people, a husband and wife, and their son, who come to moments when they lose sight of who they are, only to find through difficult times that sense of identity again. The story begins in 1971 Kolkata, a time when foreign products dazzled us and visits by expatriate relatives were pretty much the event of the year. A young Bengali settled in the US, Ashoke Ganguli (Irrfan) marries a local girl Ashima (Tabu) and they migrate to the US. Some years down the line, Ashima gives birth to a son (Kal Penn). The basic premise of the film is this: How will this child survive in American society with a name as odd sounding and tongue twisting as Gogol Ganguli? Nikolai Gogol is Ashoke's favorite author. A brilliant and eccentric man, who penned literary masterpieces like The Overcoat, he eventually starved to death.

His modern-day namesake Gogol Ganguli experiences all the usual clichés associated with people with unusual names -- his American classmates poke fun at him during lessons on Russian Literature and women raise a quizzical eyebrow at the part when he reveals his name. He grows up, very annoyed. But also, sadly, with a misconception about the origin of his name. Little does he realize that it has a more profound explanation, than he could ever imagine.

Though the premise sounds flimsy, the film breathes life into the book's characters by leaps and bounds, expanding the central idea to encompass a whole lot more. It dissects the complex lot of the American Born Confused Desi and more importantly, their attitude towards India. But sans the caricatures and the clichés. It traces a troubled son's pilgrimage back to his family and the realizations that don on prodigal children only in the face of immense tragedy. In fact, the film is a tribute to one's parents, but tackles the subject sans the emotional drama of say, a Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. The accents, the sets, the costumes and the dialogues boast of an authenticity, which is often missing in Indian films set in a foreign country. And the cinematography boasts a host of frames rich in texture, especially in the scenes set in Kolkata.

Irrfan Khan brilliantly, effortlessly steps into the shoes (which read 'Made In USA') of the very Bengali, practical, cool-headed Ashoke, accent and all (though it slips in one or two places). The chemistry between Khan and Tabu is intense! Kal Penn has a meaty role and finally, an opportunity to act. And he does a smooth job of it. The rest of the cast measure up perfectly, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Though the film begins on a somber pace (and slips back off and forth), it gains momentum post Gogol's birth. Nair makes the search for one's identity both enlightening and entertaining- a journey, both internal and external, you won't regret taking.
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on 29 June 2016
what a beautiful movie,such a warm storyline ,with an awesome cast ,tabu irfaan khan ,music was mellow and relaxing wedding scenes were really nice and i loved the scene were they spread ashimas husband ashes in the ganges.
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on 8 May 2014
I watched this movie, when I was in my teens. The motion picture sound track of this movie, really called out to me. Watching the film again, later, older and the story of the film, called out to me more.

The film has a good cast, Tabu and Irfan Khan (famous bollywood actors, whom make good couples and have starred in many other films together, like Life of Pi.)

This film concentrates on the family, the name and what the parents do for this children. Children, not understanding what and why the parents do it. Starting fresh, leaving home, self respect.
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on 21 June 2012
I really enjoyed The Namesake. Its variety of interesting characters and visuals was a smorgasbord of delight. It's very well directed and written, a meaningful story. I don't recognise any of the actors but that's not important, they truly do this story justice. Watch it, you won't be disappointed.
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on 28 October 2011
This really is a terrific and moving film. Nair is a very gifted film-maker. This film encapsulates some of the pain and joy experienced by South Asians living in the West attempting to integrate and raise their families.
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on 6 March 2015
Lame multi-generational soap opera, which flits from one viewpoint character to another as they effortlessly achieve the Indian fantasy of a successful life in the west, but are a bit conflicted about their identities. What should be an epiphany - the son's nickname commemorates a near-death experience that his father had - is silly and contrived, and instead of being a reveal, is actually GIVEN AWAY in the first scene of the film. There are no musical numbers with sub-Travolta dance moves or gratuitous costume changes - some may think this a good thing.
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Bought after reading the book The Namesake I was looking forward to a treat. If you haven't read the book I think you might find it quite hard to understand, so many of the important moments in the book which give it structure are passed by in a flash. The first third of the film almost seems to be a foreign language movie so rarely do they speak English, with no subtitles, so it creates a beautiful and special atmosphere but leaves one out rather unless you already know what is going on. I kept telling myself, that was when...There is a mystical, wistful quality to the film with much photography of bridges, buildings and colourful ceremonies both in Bengal and New York. The love scenes are perfect, utterly believable, between his parents and the son with his American and later Bengali partner. Interestingly Gogol doesn't get it all his own way. He was a difficult and angry young man who rebuffed his gentle loving father and found him irrelevant for a while. He was almost repulsive in his teenage persona, the actor was made to look younger and even ugly which was clever. His rude behaviour was stereotype - absolutely normal of course. I lent it to my daughter who said "nothing happens" which it does seem to be the case unless you know what is going on in depth or are Bengali. Then you would recognise all of the angst, tradition, and life stages. It eventually warms up and the story becomes more of Ashima than Gogol, she steals the show - the ending is hers completely.
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