After 20 years of marriage, Aashima (Tabu) and Ashoke (Irfan Khan), the immigrant parents of the main character, visit the Taj Mahal. After the magnanimity of the Taj Mahal soaks into their consciousness, they start small talk. Ashoke asks Aashima why she chose him in the match making process, 20 years ago. She tells he was best in the lot when compared to a widowed father and a bald guy. By this time, both of them are fully blushing with just on the brink of breaking into a smile. She then asks if he would love to listen "I love you" like Americans. Later, back in the United States, Aashima keeps complaining, to her white co-worker/friend at the local library, how her now-working son almost never calls her. Her friend replies children are gone once they reach 18 in this country.
Mira Nair makes a clear point. People think and feel almost the same things, but some cultures choose to say some things out, while others say some other things. But the movie is not just about cultural similarities nor is it entirely about identity crisis as reflected in the title Namesake. The main character, Gogol (played by Kal Penn) is named after the Russian writer Nikolai Gogol. In a sea of white kids, Gogol finds his name so uncool that he changes his name to Nikhil.
So what's the rest of movie about? Most of the latter half was about Closure. The characters come to terms with a death and the guilt of not being around. Aashima grows stronger and Gogol finally comes to accept his name and the Russian author.
With Sholapur bedsheets on the beds of newly arrived and a gradual change in English accents of immigrants, Mira Nair makes 3 decades of time flow by smoothly. She makes the movie for Fox Searchlight but subtitles only Bengali and NOT Indian English. Nair has a flair when it comes to filming lovemaking. Scenes in all her earlier work, especially Mississippi Masala, have a strong woman-director signature. She continues the tradition and takes it a step further with the most honest lovemaking scene in a saree ever to be filmed.
With quite a few insider jokes, some US-thru-immigrant-eyes jokes, wonderful performances by all the cast, good music by Nitin Sahwney and some INTENSELY personal moments, Mira Nair's Namesake will linger in your mind for a while.