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.
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