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FILM REVIEW - “THE NAMESAKE” - NOT TO BE MISSED
By SHEPHALI J. RELE



Corporate
When you think about watching a movie version of a treasured book, the anticipation is mixed. You hope it remains true to the story and includes all your favorite parts. If you read and loved Jhumpa Lahiri’s “The Namesake,” you won’t be disappointed with this film. Of course, every event in the book cannot be translated on screen and some cinematic license is taken, but “The Namesake,” directed by Mira Nair, magnificently captures the essence of the poignant novel.

The story covers three decades in the life of a family starting in the late 1970s Calcutta with the arranged marriage of a young girl, Ashima (Tabu) to Ashoke Ganguli (Irfan Khan). Years before, Ashoke survived a fatal train wreck and is now studying for his Ph.D. in the United States. The newly wedded couple journey to New York to begin their life together. Soon, Ashima has a baby boy and is informed by the hospital staff they cannot leave without giving the child a name. They decide on Gogol, the name of Ashoke’s favorite Russian writer as a pet name and Nikhil as his proper name. Ashima overlooks feelings of loneliness for the promise of better opportunities for her son in their new homeland.

Years pass, they have a daughter and when Gogol/Nikhil begins school he tells his teachers to call him Gogol. This choice has significant consequences for the character as he struggles to find his identity. Those who have grown up in America will relate to many of the situations in the film, whether it’s large gatherings at home with Indian family friends or summer long trips to India as teenagers.

As a young adult Gogol, played by Kal Penn grows to resent his seemingly dumb name. Distanced from his family and now, known as Nick, Gogol has become a successful architect living in New York City with an American girlfriend. A tragic event leads him to question his identity yet again and eventually understand the significance of his name.

With the story of two generations dealing with two cultures as the backdrop, the film’s narrative, full of visual imagery, deals with many themes. City shots of New York and Calcutta are overlapped and strike a chord with anyone who has left one home to find another. A lot happens in the span of two hours but you truly feel you’ve come to understand and empathize with the main characters. Credit goes to director Nair for her rich yet intimate style aided by beautiful cinematography and a moving screenplay. Several scenes stay with you, long after you leave the theatre.

But what make the film truly satisfying are the performances. Bollywood veteran Tabu delivers a graceful yet powerful performance. Khan embodies the role of Ashoke so effortlessly that one can’t picture him playing any other character. And Penn was a surprise delight as he displayed his acting prowess in this layered dramatic role. Zuleikha Robinson gives credible support as the equally confused Bengali girl Gogol marries.

Even at the film’s conclusion, you wish to be a part of Gogol’s life for a while longer or learn how Ashima fares in the next stage of her life. I guess that would be a question for the author. And if you haven’t read the book I’m sure you’ll want to after watching the movie. I highly recommend “The Namesake” as a must-see when it opens in theatres March 23 in the Miami area and March 30 in Tampa.



Not To Be Missed: Khaas Baat picks the 10 best movies of 2006
By SHEPHALI J. RELE



Corporate
Each of these films presented something special to the audience, whether it was sheer entertainment, unique storytelling, inspiring performances or a combination of these qualities along with memorable music. (listed alphabetically)

“Bas Ek Pal”

“Corporate”

“Dhoom 2”

“Don”

“Dor”



Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna
“Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna”

“Khosla Ka Ghosla”

“Lage Raho Munnabhai”

“Omkara”

“Rang De Basanti”



HINDI MOVIE RELEASES
By SHEPHALI J. RELE



Hema Malini, Amitabh Bachchan, Rani Mukherjee and Salman Khan are all smiles in “Baabul.”

“Baabul”: Starring Amitabh Bachchan, Hema Malini, Salman Khan, Rani Mukherjee, John Abraham, Om Puri; directed by Ravi Chopra; music by Aadesh Shrivastava.

After the popular “Bhagban,” Ravi Chopra returns with another family drama. Amitabh Bachchan plays Balraj Kapoor, a rich businessman who values family and culture but has a modern outlook on life. Hema Malini plays his supporting wife and Salman Khan his loving son, Avinash.

After completing studies abroad, Avinash comes home to his parents, meets Millie, played by Rani Mukherjee, gets married to her, and they soon have a child. Meanwhile, John Abraham is Rajat, a close friend of Millie’s who has never revealed his true feelings to her. After seeing her happily settled, he moves to Europe to pursue his musical career. In a tragic twist, Millie loses Avinash in a fatal accident.

Balraj and his wife seek solace through their grandson but after seeing Millie’s heartbreaking condition, he makes a bold decision. He wants to find Rajat and ask him to marry Millie. Even though Balraj’s wife and elder brother don’t support his intentions and despite society’s reaction, he hopes to succeed in his efforts as Baabul.



Govinda and Akshay Kumar team up for laughs in “Bhagam Bhag.”
“Bhagam Bhag”: Starring Govinda, Akshay Kumar, Paresh Rawal, Lara Dutta, Jackie Shroff, Suniel Shetty; directed by Priyadarshan; music by Pritam.

This comic caper stars Paresh Rawal as Champak Chaturved, the owner of a traveling Indian theatre group. Sharing screen space for the first time are Akshay Kumar and Govinda who are Bunty and Babla, two actors in Champak’s troupe. Both guys are fun-loving, never missing a chance to flirt with the girls, even their cast mates. The group travels to England after being offered the chance to perform several shows there. Unfortunately, the heroine of their play has quit because of Bunty’s misbehavior.

With the help of a local taxi driver played by Rajpal Yadav, they search for their new actress. After several mishaps and misunderstandings, they find a girl with amnesia, Lara Dutta, to fill the role and Bunty starts to fall in love with her. But when her memory returns, more chaos follows, including a murdered husband and major conspiracy! Said to be a remake of a hit Malayalam comedy, expect surefire laughs and excitement from the director of “Hera Pheri.”



Abhishek Bachchan is Guru in “Guru.”
“Guru”: Starring Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Madhavan, Vidya Balan, Mithun Chakravarty, Arya Babbar; directed by Mani Ratnam; music by A.R. Rahman.

Abhishek Bachchan plays the title role in this film reportedly based on the life of India’s business tycoon and Reliance founder, Dhirubhai Ambani. As he displayed in “Yuva,” director Mani Ratnam brings out the best in his artists, and Abhishek’s performance as Guru Kant Desai is sure to mark another leap in his career. Aishwarya Rai stars opposite him and Madavan plays his rival Shyam Saxena. Watch for Mithun Chakravarthy and Vidya Balan in pivotal roles.

Only character sketches of the film have been released so far. In the words of Guru, “There’s a saying in our village, if people say bad things about you, you must be doing something good. Sounds good, doesn’t it.” From Shyam, “It’s not just that he is evil but he awakens the evil in everyone. Profit and share price were the only two parameters that mattered to him. Right and wrong, just and unjust were incidental.” Not to be missed is the enchanting music by A.R. Rahman, who seems to reserve his finest for Mani Ratnam.





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