CAST & CREW
A crystal clear story of longing for roots of a displaced middle-class Indians, which lends a soulful undertow to a lacking melodrama. The story is not totally unpredictable, but it has its surprise elements, in the complex emotions of characters.
Plot: Based on a novel by Jhumpa Lahiri on the same, the story revolves around a middle-class Indian family who goes and settles in the United States. What happens next is a disjuncture between cultures, confusions that the children go through. The story starts with Ashok and Ashima Ganguly, first generation immigrants from West Bengal. They belong to the typical household of 1970’s that believes and has faith on arranged marriages. After marriage, they shift to New York. They give birth to a son. Through a series of misconstrues, their son’s nickname Gogol (named after a Ukranian author Nikolai Gogol, from who Ashok was inspired) becomes his official birth name. This particular event shapes and reshapes, over a period of time, many aspects of life. Gogol initially is seen as a lazy, pot smoking teenager who wants a break from his cross-cultural background. He is confused about what to practice, in consequence, resents many of customs, traditions, that his family believes in, and, more importantly, fails to understand his parents. After a summer trip to India, which Ashok believed would change his children’s mindset, and make them more accepting of Indian traditions. As expected, this was a failed task.
After his completion of college, Gogol changes his name to Nick, dates a Caucasian woman, belonging to a wealthy background. Gogol falls in love and makes her meet his parents, who struggle to understand concepts like dating, marriage and love of modern times, because it all looks abstract to them, considering, their marriage was an arranged one. Ashok and Ashima are hesitant and clueless when they meet the girl. This is why Gogol feels much more closer to the girls’ parents than he does to his own. While Ashok leaves for Ohio, on a teacher’s apprenticeship work, he tells his son, of the story of how he came up with his name. While holidaying with the Caucasian girl Gogol gets the news of his father’s sudden demise. Grieving and sad by his sudden demise, Gogol tries to be someone his parents wanted him to be. He makes conscious attempts to follow the customs and rituals. In consequence, he distances himself from the Caucasian girl and later breaks up with her. On the other hand, he shows interest in one of the family friends daughter, a Bengali.
They decide to get married, which was a failed attempt, as the girl gets bored of being Gogol’s wife, and shows interest towards her old French boyfriend. Gogol divorces her, for which his mother takes all the blame because she pressurized him to marry her. Gogol comes back home, to help Ashima pack all her things when he finds the book Ashok gave him as a present. In the search of comfort and solitude, he finally starts reading the stories, on his train back home.
Analysis: The story of an immigrant family to the United States, and being torn between tradition and modernity, has been shown in many movies. What distinguishes Nair’s movie from the others, is the characters having a more complex expressions in work than the words would describe. The longing for roots provides a certain undertow to the story that avoids serious melodrama. Each character in its own sense, have a place in the palette, they carve their own niche through the story.
Verdict: It’s a big thumbs-up if you want a change from melodramatic emotional longing.
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