I was supposed to have read The Namesake for my Lit class so like any other college student, I went and saw the movie instead. Well… I’m actually excited to read the book now. Dammit.
I remember seeing previews for this film unaware that it was an adaptation and I just thought it looked like an Indian version of Garden State. I love Kal Penn and have never been able to think of him as a serious actor. I loved Harold and Kumar and Kal Penn has always been able to stick out as a great performer in the teen films he’s been in.
Kal Penn’s performance in The Namesake is a giant step forward for him. The film was beautiful and had an amazing story. The conflict of east vs. west was the most prominent theme, but it was more about acceptance that showing what’s wrong with our society or anything like that. I loved the colors and the music was both appropriate and absolutely original to my ears. There were many points in the score where the music was the crescendo to the scene. It was terrific. The bollywood actors, especially Irfan Khan who plays the father of Kal Penn’s character, was really excellent. This was one of the most believable families on screen that I’ve seen in a long time.
The story is of Gogol Ganguli (Penn), a young Indian American who has a lifelong love/hate relationship with his name (he’s named after his father’s favorite Russian author Nikolai Gogol). His father has a very specific and emotional connection to his son’s name and unfortunately Gogol does not share the love of the name like him. As the movie goes on, Gogol decides to change his name to his “good name” Nikhil (in Bengali culture one has a pet name and a good name) much to the chagrin of his father. Penn’s acting is extraordinarily superb here, he’s doing things that I’ve never thought I’d see in him. He is a wonderful dramatic actor and he has great chemistry with his fellow actors in high drama scenes.
The film is a very well made film, a great adaptation (I’ve been reading the book constantly since I saw the film yesterday), and a huge leap forward for Kal Penn who needed a film like this. I read that he is very proud of this role and he absolutely should be. This film doesn’t necessarily need to be seen in the theaters so if you want to wait for it on DVD it’s okay. Go see Grindhouse instead, but definitely catch this one if you get the chance. I give the Namesake an A-.