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Film / The Namesake

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The Film of the Book with the same name by Jhumpa Lahiri, directed by Mira Nair. The film revolves around the cultural struggles faced by Gogol Ganguli, the son of Ashima and Ashoke, who are Indian immigrants to America.

The story begins when Ashima (Tabu) and Ashoke Ganguli (Irrfan Khan) move from Calcutta, India to New York. They have a son, whom they temporarily name Gogol, after Nikolai Gogol, and a daughter, Sonia. Gogol (Kal Penn, yes that Kal Penn) eventually becomes his legal name, and it shapes much of the events of his life. Gogol eventually changes his name to Nikhil ("Nick" for short) and eventually falls in love with two women, both of whom reflect his attitudes toward himself and his culture.

Not to be confused with namesakes in general nor Namesake gags.

Contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness/Adaptation Name Change/Age Lift: Moushimi's boyfriend. In the book, his name is Dmitri Desjardins and he's an overweight, middle-aged man with a balding head. In the film, his name is Pierre, and he's briefly shown as an attractive young man.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: Gogol. While the novel offers more introspection into his decisions, he is more respectful to his parents; here is he a Jerk with a Heart of Gold with more attempts to sever ties with his family.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Both Gogol and Moushimi come to regret their marriage. This culminates in Moushimi having an affair.
  • Arranged Marriage: Ashima and Ashoke Ganguli met only once before their marriage.
  • Bilingual Backfire: A version. When Moushumi's French friend calls her, she speaks to him in French, triggering Ashima's (correct) suspicions that there's more to their relationship.
  • Cathartic Scream: Ashima when Ashoke tells her her father has died, then later after she hears that Ashoke himself has passed away.
  • Culture Clash: The entire movie's premise
  • Dying Alone: Happens to Ashoke.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Gogol does not want to be named Gogol. He keeps changing his nickname in his quest to find an identity.
  • Erudite Stoner: Gogol casually announces to his friends that he's going to be attending Yale while smoking pot.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Ashima discussess this with her librarian coworker about "Max" or Maxine, Gogol's girlfriend.
  • Happily Married: Despite their Arranged Marriage start out, Ashoke and Ashima become this.
  • Hollywood Heart Attack: Averted. Ashoke goes to the ER complaining of a stomachache. When Ashima finally gets through to someone in the department, she's told that he died of a massive heart attack.
  • Irony: Gogol dumps Maxine and takes up with the Bengali Moushumi as part of an effort to embrace his roots after years of rejecting them. His marriage to Moushumi eventually falls apart for the opposite reasons on her part.
  • It's All My Fault: Ashima says this when she learns that Moushumi after marrying Gogol has cheated on him, and is leaving him. She blames herself for having pressured her son to marry a fellow Bengali.
  • Race Lift: Ben, Sonia's fiance, is portrayed as White in the film. However, he's briefly mentioned to be half-Asian and half-Jewish in the book.
  • She Is All Grown Up: When Gogol meets his childhood friend and Second Love Moushumi.
  • Timeshifted Actor: In the film, Gogol is played by female infant and a male child as a young kid. Kal Penn's hair is the main age-marker between his character's teen years and adulthood. Similarly, Sonia is an infant in her earlier scenes.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Gogol after his father dies. Unfortunately, this is right when he gets cheated on after marrying another Bengali girl.
  • Train-Station Goodbye: Inverted (or subverted) with Moushumi and Gogol. They are about to get on a train to see Gogol's parents, when Gogol finds out about Moushumi's affair. She leaves the train station and Gogol gets on the train without her.
    • Life-changing events associated with trains are all through this story. Ashok nearly died in a midnight train crash; he had a book by Nikolai Gogol, the fluttering pages drew rescuers' attention and saved him. In the film, when the family visits India they take a train to the Taj Mahal, where Gogol decides he wants to be an architect.
  • Troubled Fetal Position: Ashima gets into one outside after she learns Ashok died of a heart attack. So does Gogol after he visits his father's apartment to collect his things.
  • Your Normal Is Our Taboo: Gogol's college girlfriend makes a horrible impression on Ashoke and Ashima when she first meets them, first by bringing them an overly elaborate gift, then by addressing them both by their first names without their permission (to be fair, this is partly because her less conservative parents allow Gogol to do this with them), and is physically affectionate with them (kissing them on the cheek) and Gogol (holding his hand) in their presence, something frowned on in their more traditional culture.
    • It's especially irritating as Gogol warned her about all this before the meeting, only for her to completely disregard it. She dooms the relationship by showing up at Ashoke's funeral in a black (everyone else is clad in white), sleeveless dress.