Sunday, March 25, 2007

Apu and Gogol



I think the biggest compliment I can pay Jhumpa Lahiri and Mira Nair - after seeing The Namesake - is that it reminded me of Aparajito and Apur Sansar. There are similarities that were not very apparent after reading the book but came to me on watching the film. Which is a triumph for the film adaptation that you take on a subtle, intricately woven tapestry of a novel and extract material for a two-hour film that addresses themes of alienation, association and acceptance pretty successfully.

It is quite interesting that books written 75 years apart and films made 50 years apart have such similar central themes and they remain as relevant as ever. Banaras becomes Boston (New York in the film). Graduation in Science from Calcutta University becomes a degree in Architecture from Yale. Ancient Hindu scriptures become Nikolai Gogol's Collected Works. And they reflect the present day reality vividly.

The settling of a family in alien land for the search of livelihood. Their gradual acceptance of the new land. A bemused incomprehension of their extended family to appreciate their better (different?) way of life. Clinging on to certain customs while leaving others. The alienation of the second generation from the first. The second generation's assimilation into a more modern way of life. Halted communication of the first generation to the second. A death bringing on the realisation of love.
And (as the blurb of the film says), a great journey that brings you home.

Thanks to the wonders of modern film marketing, I don't think too many people will miss The Namesake (and it deserves to be seen, too). I think its time for people to go back and revisit the Apu Trilogy as well.

12 comments:

Ricercar said...

havent seen the movie. looking forward to it

Diligent Candy said...

I am waiting for this one to get released here, so far no news...sigh! Guess this one shall be a DVD pick...

The Mad Momma said...

read the book... wondering when we can watch the movie.. will you babysit bean for us?

GettingThereNow said...

I read the book a few months ago. Have been meaning to write a post on it for quite some time - I did not like it very much. Not because of the theme but because I feel the theme was not explored deeply enough. I guess i will write more about it on my blog when I have had a chance to collect my thoughts. I read another book on a similar theme a few years ago - "Born Confused" by Tanuja Desai-Hidier and liked that one better. I understand that someone reading this book when they haven't read anything else on this subject might like it.

I will watch the movie though - in the hopes that it does better justice to the theme than the book did.

iz said...

You know I just hated The Namesake. It gave me nothing. But I believe that sometimes books one doesnt like make good movies.
So this I'm going to see. Thanks for the review.

dipali said...

Beautiful movie- well worth craning our necks in the front row!

sudin said...

Interesting that you should compare the two: Jhumpa L. herself has this to say of Mira Nair:

"I don't know if she's reacting to the book or, if it's something she wants to explore or, that she drew inspiration from Bengali filmmakers who have that sensibility, but she's made a Bengali film."

( http://www.outlookindia.com/full.asp?fodname=20070402&fname=JhumpaLahiri&sid=1 )

It is also interesting to see the Apu Trilogy and Truffaut's roughly contemporary Antoine Doinel cycle ("400 Blows" on through "Love on the run") side by side. Beyond being bildungsromans both, they have remarkable similarities: a young man with literary ambitions, love and death intertwined. There are significant differences, of course: Truffaut's tone I find to be much colder (though probably effusively romantic by New Wave standards!). And the same actor (Jean-Pierre Leaud) plays Antoine Doinel in all five films - from adolescence to adulthood.

Housewife Blues said...

Hey! We are going to watch the Namesake on Thurs/Fri with Prantik and his wife. Piper at the gates of dawn is Antu's (Arindam's wife) err I think he was your classmate :-P

Piper at the gates of dawn.. said...

sorry for the delay in relying. well, even though you now knnow, i`m Arindam Banerjee`s wife. You may pbly know him as Antu. :-)

SS said...

I loved the Apu trilogy and just watched The Namesake last weekend .. I really like the way you've brought out common threads between the movies ... real nice :)

OrangeJammies said...

Loved the movie. Reviewed it on my page. Only, the damn review's so long, I'll probably never read it again, so I can't really tell you to.

aspiring annapoorna said...

strangely, I had a pair of goldfish named Apu and Gogol....at a time when I had no clue of ray's trilogy or lahiri's book! Typing the two names idly into google led me to this post :)