It has always been odd to me that for as popular as Bollywood films are in India, they really haven’t made much of an impact here in the States. Films from other countries find their place here, but Indian works are pretty widely overlooked here. Maybe it has to do with the wide cultural differences. Maybe it is because so many Bollywood films rely heavily on the traditions of the American musical. Whatever the reason, no Indian films have really caught on here, and the same can be said of the beautiful and talented Indian actors and actresses.
The Namesake is a film that may finally have opened this part of the world up to Americans. Ironically, it has been done through the salesmanship of Kumar Patel himself, Kal Penn. Previews sold this film as a Kal Penn vehicle, wherein he confronted his painfully uncool parents and learned that they might not be so uncool after all. I was shocked when I discovered that this is not at all what the film is about.
The film did not start with Kal Penn at all, but in India before his parents (played superbly by Irfan Kahn and Jagannath Guha) even met. This is the story of a family and its heritage. It is a breathtakingly beautiful film that explores the immigrant experience with a refreshing honesty that I have simply not experienced before.
In fact, the only real complaint that I have with the film is that it is too short. This is a big story that needs room to breathe, and it is a shame that so much of the story had to be compressed to fit into the two hours that most Americans will sit still in a theater. There is so much story to explore here, this should have been a mini-series.
The Indian culture is filled with beautiful, bright colors, and this film is no exception. It is unfortunate that the transfer is not better. The disc does an adequate job of reproducing the colors, but the brighter ones do bloom over to an annoying degree. The picture quality is good, but not great. There are some occasional problems with grain, and the entirety of the disc lacks the sharpness that a film like this deserves. The transfer is adequate, and should not dissuade anyone from viewing this fantastic film.
The audio offering is very similar to the quality of the video. On the one hand, it lacks the punch that most modern films have these days. There is no booming low end, and there is nothing going on in the surrounds. No flashy audio tricks, no pans, just the audio that is required, in a simple, understated presentation. It is a beautiful, graceful and elegant soundtrack, perfectly matching the film.
There are a decent number of special features loaded onto this disc, starting of with an audio commentary by director Mira Nair. She has some interesting insight into the film, making it something that fans will definitely want to visit.
The Anatomy of the Namesake: A Class at Columbia University’s Graduate Film School is an absolutely fantastic half-hour with the film’s director at Columbia University, as she goes into great detail about the inspirations for the film, as well as what it takes to get a movie financed. Highly recommended stuff.
The next segment is an obvious sales pitch called Fox Movie Channel presents in Character with Kal Penn. I appreciate what they were trying to do here, but it is clearly something that was created only to sell the film, and it is basically a throw away segment.
The Kolkata Love Poem featurette is basically just a four-minute music video featuring images from the film. I know it’s only four minutes of your life, but they are still four minutes that you could be using to do something more productive. The same could also be said of Nair’s Photography As Inspiration featurette, which is a collection of paintings and artwork that inspired the filmmaker as she was composing the film.
Finally, the whole thing wraps up with three short deleted scenes. As with most deleted scenes, there is nothing truly groundbreaking here.
The marketing people at Fox really missed an opportunity with this film. Clearly, they were attempting to make the film appeal to a younger audience with more disposable income, but I truly believe that if they had let the film speak for itself, it would have been easily accepted for what it is. It is incomprehensible to me that The Namesake was not nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, and both Irfan Kahn and Jagannath Guha were not nominated for their acting work. I was shocked and overwhelmed by this absolutely beautiful film.