mira nair's the namesake

A couple of stories on Kal Penn, who stars in Mira Nair's The Namesake—definitely a bit of a departure from his recent work of late (Harold and Kumar, Van Wilder, Epic Movie), but he's fit for the job: The White-Castle Ceiling. And here: 'Kumar' makes a name for himself. He was apparently trying to buy the rights to produce The Namesake with John Cho when he found out Nair was already directing it. Here's also a Fresh Air interview with Mira Nair: Mira Nair Brings 'The Namesake' to Film. And another good interview here: Exclusive: Filmmaker Mira Nair.

I had the chance to catch a screening of The Namesake a few weeks ago, and really enjoyed myself. It's a well-directed, gorgeously shot portrait of an Indian American family, spanning two cultures and two generations. I never got around to reading Jhumpa Lahiri's novel, but I'm told it's a very faithful adaptation, at least in spirit. The story isn't primarily about Kal Penn's character Gogol, as some of the trailers indicate. And the movie isn't necessarily all about his identity struggle with being Indian American, caught between two worlds and all that (though it's certainly a part of it). It's more to do with that fact that Gogol has a really weird name, and his parents don't get him (and vice versa). I would argue though that the movie is more a story about Gogol's parents, played by Tabu and Irrfan Khan (who are absolutely incredible). Their story is deeply affecting, and as a second generation Asian American kid, I couldn't help but think of my own parents' immigration story. In that sense, the universal way this story hits home—a wholly American family story, regardless of ethnicity—it's an incredibly moving film. I'll admit, a few moments had me reaching for the tissues. Nair ends the film with a dedication "to all the parents," which prompted me to call my mom after the screening. The Namesake opens in select cities tomorrow, March 9th.

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