Have you been named after someone famous? It is difficult to fill the shoes when you are named after someone great. Thankfully, this author has no shoes to fill except her own. Trust me, it is not very hard to fill those. Very small shoes.
I am going to be very frank with you guys. When books are made into movies, I am inevitably disappointed. Do not even get me started on what they did with the Harry Potter series! Well, I will leave that for another day. So, when The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri was being made into a movie, I was prepared to be disappointed. I watched the movie explicitly to find faults, and hence include it in my Hall of Shame of Books Vs Movies. (I am a petty person with lots of spare time. What do you expect?)
Imagine my surprise when I found myself loving the unlikeliest of the characters. A character who did not touch my heartstrings in the book. A character, who at best, seemed to be merely a supporting character.
Ashoke just wants to read his book in peace when he is interrupted by the well-meaning Mr. Ghosh. He was from London. He tells Ashoke "to pack a pillow and see the world". Ashoke isn't impressed. "That's what books are for. To travel without moving an inch." In a fatal train accident, Ashoke is saved only because he reached for his book, written by Nikolai Gogol. He owes his life to the Russian genius who lived and died more than a century ago.
It isn't any wonder when he emigrates to America later and names his newborn son Gogol. It also doesn't surprise us when Gogol resents his name and struggles with his identity as a second-generation immigrant. He does not wish to be a Bengali. Just an American. When Ashoke gifts his teenage son a book by Nikolai Gogol, it breaks our heart to watch the son reject the gift. The father just looks on as Gogol tosses it aside with a mere "Thanks".
There is a pleasure in watching the interactions between Ashoke and his wife Ashima. After years of marriage, Ashoke asks his wife a question. What made you say yes all those years ago? "Because you were the best of the lot", she replied. When Ashoke does not seem satisfied, she teases, "Do you want me to say 'I love you', like those Americans?" We get to see Ashoke blush at that, and we blush too with the romance and tenderness of the moment.
I loved the movie for small moments like these. I found myself looking forward to the scenes with Ashoke and Ashima. I admired the silent wisdom and maturity of Ashoke when he dismisses an act of racism as 'just some kids having fun'. And a part of my heart was lost forever as Ashoke died of a heart attack.
Honestly, I would not have liked the movie if not for Irrfan. He made me love Ashoke, he made me root for Ashoke and Ashima and he made me cry when Ashoke assured Ashima that he was fine during his final hour.