Friday, March 13, 2009

The Namesake - an Eastern Indian Movie with Kal Penn (2006)

Heart Rate: YYY

Kal Penn, of Harold & Kumar fame, stars in The Namesake, a movie about a young man's struggle to live with his Eastern Indian heritage in an American world.

Named after his father's favorite author, Gogol, he is taunted for his odd name. Gogol is never understands why his Indian parents named him for a Russian author until it is almost too late.

The film relies heavily on Nickolai Gogol's short story, "The Over Coat;" in fact, Gogol's father quotes Dostoevsky's line, "We all come out from Gogol's 'Overcoat'."

A study of names and their meaning, the film examines the influence heritage and environmental forces have on our character.

The Indian actress Tabu plays Gogol's mother and is absolutely gorgeous at all stages of the film; her acting is quiet, understated but deeply moving. Irrfan Kahn as Gogol's father is wonderful, too, as the academic, yet quietly funny, father. Zuleikha Robinson gave a noteable performance as Gogol's wife--she reminded me a bit of Minnie Driver, in appearance.

Kal Penn's performance is a little uneven and relies a bit heavily on his pouty good looks. But I will be a little lenient as he was still developing his acting chops at this stage in his career.

The cinematography is a tad irregular but there are some very beautiful shots of India and New England. The segment on the Taj Mahal is exceptional.

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