Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Namesake

Today I saw "The Namesake," a film based on the novel by Jhumpa Lahiri, a novel which I liked a lot. That right there is often the recipe for disaster (see "Everything is Illuminated") and in this case, I fear it might be true again. Not to get too far ahead of myself here, but I wonder if I'd have had a different experience with the film if I'd never read the book. No way of knowing, of course.

The novel is structured as long glimpses of the lives of an Indian family in the U.S., with each section jumping forward in time from the preceding. It works, mainly because you then settle in for a relatively long spell in that particular time, with that particular point of view. (The novel swings from father to mother to child.) The film is very true to this structure, in that it slips forward with chunks of time, usually without warning, but the result on the screen is that you are running too fast without really getting too much out of any one of them. Not to say there aren't wonderful moments; on the contrary, the film pauses at certain times to let you take in the beauty of your surroundings, in simple things like doorknobs and airport murals and the stockinged thigh of a young woman. But I kept feeling the noticeable absence of the character depth I'd gotten in the novel.

So I would say I liked the movie, and would recommend it (although maybe just to get an opinion of someone who hasn't read the book) but I didn't out and out love it. There are some truly moving moments, some good acting, and some beautiful scenery. (The Taj Mahal.) The screening I went to, 3:00 on a warm Saturday, was sold out, but I think that's because it hasn't opened wide yet.

This week we had a presentation by one of the executives who oversees our Indian office (yes, like many, our corporation has expanded into India.) He talked a lot about the differences in culture, in an effort to aid us in working more productively with them. He shared stories of his own visits there, as well as some photos. (The Taj Mahal!) I also just finished reading "The Inheritance of Loss," by Kiran Desai, a novel set in India during the 1980's. All of these forces combined to propel me into an Indian restaurant tonight for takeout. I succumbed, gamely ignoring my calorie count for today, and I don't regret it.


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