Ok, so what was this really about?
If you are looking for an entertaining 120 minutes while watching THE NAMESAKE then let's make it clear at the very onset - the film is hardly entertaining. At maximum, it is akin to reading a novel where one gets to know about each of the characters and then heads on to some intellectual/intelligent/introspective conversation. And by the way, that too would find a limited segment since both the subject and treatment as seen in THE NAMESAKE is not everyone's cup of tea.
Before we delve further into what the film is all about, let's highlight what's the biggest issue with the film (if one thinks about an average viewer visiting the film) - It's snail pace. The story takes minutes and minutes to move on to the next stage and at number of place one gets extremely restless. Especially in the second half, at least at 3-4 places one feels that the story has come to an end but that just doesn't happen.
The film moves on and on and then ends on a note that only adds on to the frustration since one starts wondering about the intent behind the entire drama and it's subsequent conclusion. Sure the award winning credentials of both the film and the book (by Jhumpa Lahiri) on which it is based are reasons enough to consider some meat behind all the happenings but then we are talking from the point of view of an average cinegoer here.
Coming to the film, it won't be wrong to say that it's all about a name! Gogol [Kal Penn], is the name around which the entire story of the film revolves. Born to Ashok Ganguly [Irrfan Khan] and Ashima [Tabu], natives of Kolkata who have lived their entire life after being married in New York, he is named after a famous Russian author who has been a huge influence in Gangulis lives.
Reason? Before marriage Ashok was traveling in a train that had met with an accident with him being the only survivor. Since he was reading his grandfather gifted book written by Gogol on his journey, he decided to name his son as Gogol so that it would remind him of his survival and life after that.
Well, that's about it and this is what forms the crux of the entire film. Gogol wants to change his name since in USA it wasn't quite jelling well and Gangulis seeing him getting immersed into the Western mould get a little sentimental about the entire affair. Thankfully director Mira Nair avoids any stereotypical/clichÃ©d dramatic scenes here and allows everyone to have their point of views sans any histrionics.
Gogol falls in love with his American colleague [Jacinda Barrett] and Gangulis accept her too. Meanwhile his sister too falls in love with an American boy and eventually gets married to her. In turn of events, Ashok passes away due to a sudden illness that leads Gogol to introspect and realize the value of the name his father had given him.
In a rather childish altercation with his girlfriend and a breakup later, he falls in 'lust' with a Bengali woman who had turned from an ugly duckling to a overtly sexy female in a matter of years and gets into a hasty marriage with her. Their relationship too is short-lived as the wife later confesses that both of them got a Bengali spouse for each other but not the kind of person they would have wanted. And for some unexplained reason, Gogol finally feels liberated as he gets to know about her affair with a French guy.
They split. End of story. End of film!
Ideally speaking, the film could have come to an end after Ashok's death and further breaking up of Gogol and his girlfriend. But that doesn't quite happen and this is where the film starts dragging on. Agreed that reintroduction of the Bengali girl in Gogol's life does bring an interesting take in the twist but then her falling back in love with her French ex-boyfrie