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Namesake, The


Stars: Kal Penn, Tabu, Irrfan Khan, Jacinda Barrett, Zuleikha Robinson, Glenn Headly, Amy Wright, Sahira Nair

Director: Mira Nair

Comedian Penn gets a straight role in this story of an Indian girl (Tabu), who enters into an arranged marriage with Ashoke Ganguli (Khan), the only survivor of a train crash.

When he was rescued, he was clutching a book by his favourite author, Nikolai Gogol - so it's not surprising that, when the couple moves to America, Ashoke gives his first-born the 'pet' name Gogol.

Grown up, Gogol (Penn) reverts to his 'good' name, Nikhil, and embarks on relationships with blue-blooded Max (Barrett), who never fits in with his family, and Bengali-American beauty Monshumi (Robinson), whom he marries.

Gogol's journey, and those of his parents, is never less than interesting, although you often wonder just where the film is going. The answer is: nowhere very much - don't expect any great closure at the end. Excellent performances of great warmth from Khan and Tabu overshadow Penn, who's perfectly OK but not in the same league.

See this for the acting and its fascinating background detail, but don't expect any great insight into life. The film never really shows us the Gangulis as they see themselves and over-marginalises their daughter (Sahira Nair) from the story. The screenplay is generally sturdy, although one line - 'Don't worry, it's nothing' - is a sure indication that one character is about to meet their maker.

David Quinlan

USA 2006. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox (Fox Searchlight). Eastman Colour.
122 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 1, Swearing 0.

Review date: 23 Mar 2007