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T

he Namesake is the entertainment version of the holy trinity for South Asians the world over: A Pulitzer Prize-winning desi author, a director who put brown people in films before they were popular, and the world’s most famous South Asian actor. Yes, the coming together of Jhumpa Lahiri, Mira Nair and Kal Penn has had people buzzing for a couple of years now, ever since Lahiri’s book found its way into Nair’s hands.

And it’s not just South Asians who are enjoying Nair’s poignant adaptation of the story of an immigrant family. The box office has been pretty kind to a film that’s only had a limited release thus far: In its second week of release, The Namesake has grossed $1.1 million and scratched its way into the North American Top 20. Thanks to its success, the film will open in another 69 theaters around the country on March 23. Maybe it’s because the reviews have been mostly positive, or perhaps folks just want to know what that kid from Harold and Kumar is doing in a serious flick. In any case, there have been dozens of articles about how the film came to be, and by now, we’ve all surely heard about how it was Mira Nair’s teenage son who pushed for Kal Penn’s inclusion in the film.

But we’re not going to tell you the things you already know. Here are 21 things you probably didn’t know about The Namesake. Already a pro, or did something surprise you? Tell us what you think at the end of the piece.

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Jacinda Barrett and Kal Penn in The Namesake.
The Start of Something Good

1

If it wasn’t for Harold and Kumar, there would be no Namesake (at least not in its current incarnation). John Cho, who played Harold in the White Castle flick, recommended that Penn read Lahiri’s novel. “Since I live in the plastic bubble known as Los Angeles, I was not aware that The Namesake had come out. After proper chastisement from Cho, I went out and bought the book, read it in a single sitting, and loved it. John and I discussed trying to get rights to the film,” says Penn. They found out later that Mira Nair had acquired the rights the week before—and so began Penn’s campaign to get cast in the movie. (Nair’s son, Zohran, was a fan of the stoner comedy and begged his mother to choose Penn as protagonist Gogol Ganguli. Before Penn, Nair was considering casting Bollywood heartthrob Abhishek Bachchan. The rest is history.)

2. While the story of The Namesake spans multiple cultures, so does the money backing it. The $10.5 million film is co-financed by the Indian production company UTV Motion Pictures, Fox Searchlight Pictures and the Japanese company Entertainment Farm.

“The lullabies I had Ashima sing in the film are all lullabies that Mrs. Lahiri sings to her grandchildren.”

3. Sooni Taraporevela, Nair’s best friend “since [she] went to Harvard at 18,” wrote the screenplay for the film. She also scripted Nair’s Mississippi Masala. To stay true to Lahiri’s style, Nair and Taraporevela studied Lahiri’s Pulitzer-winning collection of stories, Interpreter of Maladies. Some of the stories even made appearances in the film: The piece about the couple who finds Jesus figurines in their new home (“This Blessed House”) inspired the reindeer Christmas lights that adorn the home of the Gangulis’ neighbors.

4. Nair didn’t stop at that story. After the screenplay was done, she added another element lifted from Maladies. There is a scene in which Ashoke (Irrfan Khan) shows Ashima (Tabu) a map of the New York City subway so that she can go downtown to buy fish from the Fulton Fish Market. The importance of fish in the life of a new bride is also in the short story “Mrs. Sen’s,” in which the title character, a bored and lonely new housewife, was only happy when she received letters from India or had the chance to eat fresh fish.

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Tabu and Irrfan Khan.

5

Ashima and Ashoke Ganguli, the parents of protagonist Gogol Ganguli, are based on Jhumpa Lahiri’s real parents, Amar and Tia Lahiri. In fact, when actors Tabu and Khan came to the States, Nair had them spend a day with Lahiri’s family in Rhode Island. “I loved Mr. and Mrs. Lahiri. They became like my own aunt and uncle,” says Nair. “Jhumpa’s mother is a lot like Ashima—someone who is incredibly cultured, very knowledgeable about Bengali movies and songs. The lullabies I had Ashima sing in the film are all lullabies that Mrs. Lahiri sings to her grandchildren.”

6. Even the vivid blue cabinets in the Ganguli family kitchen were inspired by the ones in Lahiri’s family home. “Those cabinets are almost a direct copy of her kitchen cabinets,” says Nair.

7. Amar Lahiri, a librarian in Rhode Island, says both the novel and the film affected him profoundly: “There were so many touching moments in the film that brought back memories of our friends who lost their parents in India while they were here.” He adds that the story’s pivotal train accident was based on a similar event that happened to his cousin in 1961.

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Ashima tries on the shoes of a stranger.

8

Mira Nair had originally wanted Rani Mukherjee to play Ashima Ganguli, but her availability didn’t work with the production dates. “Rani and I will definitely work together. But for The Namesake I wonder if she’d have been comfortable aging far older than she is. The heroine has to go from 21 to 50,” say Nair. Konkana Sen Sharma was also considered for the role, but Tabu won out in the end. Good thing—she delivers perhaps the most powerful performance in the film.

Behind the Scenes

9. Lahiri’s family members took roles in the production at Nair’s request. “Mira wanted to pepper the scenes with people from my life,” says Lahiri. She and her parents appear in various fleeting shots in the movie (the author is cast as “Jhumpa Massi”), including the wedding scene in Kolkata which featured many other Lahiri relatives. “Mira Nair has given us more than a beautiful film,” says Tia Lahiri. “We feel as if our whole family is connected to the film—we have become a part of it.” The author is grateful for the inclusion, writing, “In real life, my nuclear family in America and my extended family in India are separated by about 8,000 miles. But Mira binds us together, in the form of extras embedded in numerous scenes.”

In real life, Nair’s son isn’t allowed to speak English in their home, where only Hindustani is permitted.

10. Irrfan Khan also had to spend a week in New Jersey with Nair’s caterer, Anup-da. “He talks with that early accent you first have when you arrive and I wanted that for Ashoke,” says Nair.

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The Gangulis visit the Taj Mahal.

11

When the cast shot the scene at the Howrah train station in India, larger-than-usual crowds almost disrupted the filming. The press published the date of the filming beforehand; as a result, thousands of people swarmed the area. Luckily, things went fine thanks to the 100 security guards hired for the set. On The Namesake blog, Penn wrote: “The prodigiousness of the station itself made it feel as though the entire location was a character in the film.”

12. In high school, Gogol spends much of his time with his two buddies Jason and Marc. On the day the cast was to shoot the scene with Gogol and his friends, the actor who was supposed to play Marc never showed up. (The call time was 5:30 a.m.; the actor overslept.) Penn wrote on The Namesake blog that knowing who played Gogol’s friends was important: “I specifically called up the two guys playing my high-school best friends back in February when I got to New York and wanted to hang out with them to develop some backstory (although most of it is already present in Jhumpa’s incredibly detailed writing). So before shooting any of the film, I was able to attach and commit the faces of those two actors to the characters they play—which solidifies a lot of who Gogol is, particularly with regard to his relationship at home vs. outside of the home.” Nair ended up casting a production assistant named Justin in the role.

Life vs. Art

13. In the film, Gogol and his sister Sonia (played by Nair’s niece Sahira) barely speak their parents’ native Bengali. In real life, Nair’s son isn’t allowed to speak English in their home, where only Hindustani is permitted.

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Gogol and Moushumi in New York.

14

While Ashima and Ashoke had an arranged marriage, Nair herself, who says she’s “very intrigued” by the concept, has never had one. In fact, she actively rebelled against it. When she was 18, her mother told Nair of a proposal from a wealthy industrialist’s family. A meeting was arranged at a wedding. “At the wedding, I borrowed my friend’s outrageous, flouncy gypsy skirt, and I strode up to the father with both of my older brothers on each arm. I said, ‘Meet my two boyfriends. I have no idea who to go with tonight.'” The family lost interest in Nair soon after that.

15. To protect his privacy, Penn used to check into hotels under the pseudonym Gogol Ganguli.

What’s in a Name

16. Kal Penn is credited twice at the end of the film—once as Kal Penn, and once as Kalpen Modi. “In Gogol’s case … [his name] has nothing to do with ethnicity or heritage. It’s just that he’s been assigned to this dysfunctional Russian author, and he can’t stand it,” says Penn. “That’s what bothered Gogol, and I thought that was interesting, so I asked Mira, ‘How do you feel about Gogol and Nikhil being credited separately as Kal Penn and Kalpen Modi? Especially when they are two different age ranges and the characters are a little different.’ And she thought it was a great idea.”

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Moushumi and Gogol on their wedding day.

17

Of course, Penn only changed his own name as a lark. He told in 2004, “Almost as a joke to prove friends wrong, and half as an attempt to see if what I was told would work (that anglicized names appeal more to a white-dominated industry), I put ‘Kal Penn’ on my resume and photos.” His audition callbacks went up by 50 percent. “It showed me that there really is such an amount of racism (not just overt, but subconscious as well). I kept the anglicized version of my name on pictures so that I had a better chance of auditions, but I never intended to be known as ‘Kal Penn.’ Ironically, once you start working under any name, you can’t easily be known by another—even if it is your real name. I still prefer Kalpen Modi.” And the papers prove it: “Gogol changes his name legally, but I just changed mine on my headshots.”

Special Effects

18. There is a companion book and art exhibit for The Namesake. It started last summer when Nair designed the book mixing text from the novel and images from the movie alongside images from contemporary photographers. “I love contemporary photography,” says Nair. Various frames in the movie were inspired by the work of photographers such as Garry Winogrand, Mitch Epstein and Raghubir Singh. Once the book was done, Nair took it to the Sepia Gallery in New York City. “Namesake / Inspiration” is the resulting exhibit that runs from March 9 to April 21.

Penn used to check into hotels under the pseudonym Gogol Ganguli.

19. To promote the film, Kal Penn put up a post on The Namesake blog that stirred some controversy. On February 21, he uploaded a video of him interviewing “Ed and Larry,” two supposed Ku Klux Klan members (the actors playing the duo actually appeared in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle). “That was probably one of the worst movies I have ever seen,” says one ‘Klansman.’ The other says he loved the film. Penn wraps up by saying that the Klan is divided and asks the audience to decide. The video resulted in angry emails from fans. Penn posted a clarification on February 27.

20. Thanks to his work in The Namesake, Irrfan Khan now has an agent in the United States. His dream role? “Jim Morrison, because he was magical. If I could live that kind of passion, I’ll be somebody else.” According to DNA India, he also enjoys his status as “the thinking women’s sex icon.” “I like being called a sex icon—thinking woman or no thinking woman. It flatters me.”

21

Lahiri was moved by seeing her work on the big screen: “I was burning with curiosity as we were going to see the movie. I had no idea what to expect. I had seen shots and stills so I had a sense. But to see it, I was just overwhelmed and had a very emotional reaction. I didn’t cry when I watched it. I cried afterward.”n

Watching The Namesake made Ismat Sarah Mangla want to call her parents immediately after the film.
Published on March 19, 2007.
Photography: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.
Comments are closed.
  1. March 20, 2007, 3:52 pm Sonia

    The language is called “Hindi” not “Hindustani”. Hindustani means ‘Indian’ or ‘from India’ in Hindi.
    Please make sure your information is correct next time.

  2. March 20, 2007, 10:16 pm Nirali Magazine

    Thanks so much for reading!

    Hindustani is indeed a language, defined as “a group of Indic dialects including the spoken form of Hindi-Urdu that function as a lingua franca throughout much of northern and central India.” Find some references here and here.

    Finally, whenever Mira Nair speaks about the language her family speaks at home, she calls it Hindustani. You can listen to her interview on NPR’s “Fresh Air with Terry Gross” in which she says her son speaks Hindustani. It is also quoted in the The Toronto Star.

  3. March 21, 2007, 4:54 pm janki

    hi! This was great- I knew some of the info, but not all of it, and I am kind of obsessed with reading every bit of news connected to this movie… although I did like the book better. Thanks for the insight!

  4. March 21, 2007, 10:41 pm CAntony

    I’m SO glad Nair did not cast Bachan and Mukherjee the way she had planned.

    After the movie, I wanted to go home and hug my parents.

  5. March 22, 2007, 11:42 am swati

    Here is another unknown fact abt the Namesake- in the title of the film, they use the wrong ‘N’ to write the name of the movie in bengali. The nasal N (murdhanya naw) has been wrongly used; it should really begin with the dental N (dantya naw). Bengali grammar dictates that no word can begin with the nasal N.

  6. March 22, 2007, 2:03 pm ek

    the excitement continues – i can’t wait to see the movie. i re-read the book last month so that i had it fresh in my mind when i watched the movie.

    i found #16 and #18 on the list particularly interesting. Kal Penn probably found his role in this movie to have been something akin to Kismat, especially with his own name change. the transformation of names and with it identity is profound. i also think its wonderful to have a book, movie, and now art exhibit dedicated to this work.

    CAntony – i too am glad nair didn’t cast abishek and rani in this movie. it would not have been the same…

  7. March 22, 2007, 8:33 pm ai

    on 8: My favorite part of the film was Tabu, hands down. I simply cannot imagine a mainstream bollywood actress in the role. It’s too subtle and too powerful.

    on 16: I noticed the end credits when i saw the film. i thought it was an interesting idea, but maybe a little too ‘cutesy’

  8. March 23, 2007, 12:57 pm IAmUpset

    Not sure what you are trying to accomplish by using the racial slur ‘macaca’ to refer to South Asians, or why editors of this online magazine find it to be acceptable language to publish, given the zine’s target audience.

    Macaca means ‘monkey’.Some have cited the derogatory epithet as the number one politically incorrect word of last year: http://www.languagemonitor.com/wst_page20.html. Elections were won and lost over it.

    Are you so completely oblivious of the negative implications of this language on South Asians? Or do you think it’s now entered the vernacular of non-South Asians and is therefore OK for you to use? Neither are reasonable explanations.

    I couldnt even finish your article, I am so incensed. I will not read any more articles on this website until you publish a retraction.

  9. March 23, 2007, 1:41 pm Nirmala

    This was a wonderful article, overall. But I agree–the “macaca” reference was simply in poor taste (it doesn’t necessarily read as intentionally tongue in cheek and sort of detracts from the rest of the article).

    This movie didn’t wow me as much as I wanted it to, perhaps because the pieced-together vignettes didn’t really work for me–but the direction was superb and so was the acting. If I had one quibble, it’s that I wished I could have seen more of Zuleikha Robinson. She’s an incredible actress, and the slutty/culturally confused role (considerably more minimal than the book’s portrayal) didn’t do her justice.

  10. March 23, 2007, 3:13 pm Nirali Magazine

    Thank you for sharing your comments about the term “macaca.”

    We did not mean to offend our readers by including it in the piece, and we are sorry for any hurt our usage has caused. The offending word has been replaced by “South Asians” in the article.

    The usage was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek reclamation of a nasty word. The editors try to keep abreast of the thoughts of members of the South Asian community, and because many popular South Asian weblogs have appropriated the term, we erroneously assumed that is how our readers would interpret our usage.

    We apologize for the lapse in judgment.

  11. March 23, 2007, 4:51 pm Tina

    You people are digusting! This article is so degrading to us Indians. I’m not sure what background you come from, but please do not publish such rubbish. I’m sure if this continues, you will lose a large part of your audience.

    And BTW, Hindustani is NOT a language, no matter what Mira Nair might say!

  12. March 24, 2007, 1:18 am v

    is sahira nair really mira nair’s daughter? is she allowed to speak something other than hindi at home?

  13. March 24, 2007, 6:00 pm laura

    I absolutely love the book and I just hope the film plays in my city. I heard Nair’s interview on Fresh Air the other day and it just made me love her even more.

  14. March 25, 2007, 6:52 pm r

    sahira nair is her NEICE, not her daughter.

  15. March 26, 2007, 3:49 pm Saina

    Thanks Tina: “where only Hindustani is permitted.”

    This article seems rehashed from trivia googled all over the place. So many inaccuracies make it an embarassment. Perhaps Nirali should try to contact Mira Nair and ask the definition of Hindustani.

  16. March 28, 2007, 3:08 pm acsenray

    Tina, Saina, Sonia — I don’t see the reason for the sarcastic commentary on the term “Hindustani.” If you check the references linked to by Nirali, you’ll see that it is a perfectly valid term, and a useful one for those who choose not to make a distinction between Hindi and Urdu.

  17. March 29, 2007, 12:04 am Ismat Mangla

    We got to the bottom of the “Hindustani” controversy! Read it on The Daily.

  18. March 29, 2007, 9:19 am SP

    I thought the macaca usage was obviously tongue-in-cheek (and completely appropriate) and think its odd/hilarious that people could not follow that. whats with all the anti-hindustani folks??

  19. April 5, 2007, 4:41 pm Suman

    actually, most people who speak Hindi actually speak Hindustani which is a combination of urdu and hindi words. if you really tried to understand SHUDH HINDI, you would be very confused. try listening to the Hindi news in india…you’d think its a different language. i’m not sure why people are taking offense to “hindustani”…it is indeed a language that most of us (including me) speak.

    no one says “yeh purush/stri hai” (“this is a man/woman” in real hindi) in day-to-day conversations…they say “yeh aadmi/aurat hai” in hindustani.

  20. April 7, 2007, 3:20 am GODWIN NICKELSON

    I had gone through this website as a student point of view. Iam a M.Phil student in CICD ( Centre for Indian Culture & Daispora) – North Gujarat universeity ., Patan, India.

    This novel & movie is one among the prescribed texts for studying the Diasporic culture. It was benefecial.

  21. April 9, 2007, 10:37 am jay amrith

    Wonderful movie but a few slip-ups e.g. thr scenes in Howrsh Station show ads for “IndusInd Bank” in the background—this bank is a recent one and certainly didn’t exist during the timeline of the book.

  22. April 11, 2007, 11:29 am Rick Sun

    I enjoyed this movie. I am of European ancestry.

    There was one glaring mistake made which bothered me and to an extent spoiled the rest of the movie.

    When Gogol is born, a letter is sent to India regarding picking a name. The timeframe for the letter is 1970 to 1980. However, the stamps used to mail the letter are the 37 cent Egret which was issued after the year 2000.

    Thus the movie will be remembered by many as a “blooper” movie with this prominent scene as its cause.

    I strongly suggest that this scene be edited and deleted from future showings of the movie.

  23. April 11, 2007, 5:12 pm Mark

    I knew from the trailers that I was going to HAVE to see this movie when it what released; I didn’t know it was going to be so much about me. My family is poly-racial, and not Bengali, but “The Namesake” could have easily been us.
    I had forgotten that as an adolescent, my mother had mentioned to me in secret that I had another name before my parents brought me to America as a baby. The whole of the film spoke to me more than I could ever have imagined. I had no idea that I would be in tears so much.
    I thought the m-word was used in context, especially considering the scene with the mailbox graffiti upon the family’s return from India (THAT was a scene right out of my family’s history). And although my father still doesn’t hug as a rule (he’s loosened up a bit now that he has grandkids), he’s going to get one from me as soon as I see him.

  24. April 22, 2007, 7:23 pm Norman Becker

    Enjoyed the film, but was intrigued about the tributes at the end. One was to Sheila and Wolfie Aronstam who are old good friends of ours and noted that Robyn Aronstam was the script co-ordinator who is their daughter. please I need a contact with Robyn

  25. April 30, 2007, 4:59 pm laura

    anyone know where i can hear more of “ashima’s” BEAUTIFUL singing? i am in love with the voice.

  26. May 11, 2007, 9:03 pm uma

    Why are you so stuck on the negative? To everyone offended by the use of the word Hindustani, why not try fighting all the american media that call you habib and backwards because your government wants to lock ppl up for hugging and kissing in public?Get a clue. This magazine , ezine whatever it is, it the first time I have come across a magazine that targets an Indian audience in a modern way unlike magazines like Stardust. Is this Nirali magazine available in print?

  27. May 11, 2007, 10:41 pm laura

    I thought the movie was beautiful. It really made me long for a culture that values each member of the extended family. The portrayal of Ashima was perfection. After having lost my own father and father in law in recent times…..it just stirred every emotion festering inside of me.

    The one glaring blooper for me was in the hospital scene when Gogol is born ….they stuffed a 3 month old in that hospital bassinet!!! I have never seen a newborn smiling and gurgling (and 18 pounds!)

  28. May 21, 2007, 12:23 pm Bo

    What are the particular meanings when red is used in the movie Namesake?

  29. May 29, 2007, 1:59 am John

    I am glad that mainstream Bollywood actors/actresses were not chosen for this film. Definately there are exceptions, but most of them cannot perform beyond the stereotypical Bollywood song and dance type movies.

    Abhishek Bachan would have been comical in place of Ifran’s.

  30. June 15, 2007, 10:24 pm sonali

    I can’t imagine rani mukherji playing abisheik’s mother. Weird!

  31. June 19, 2007, 1:01 pm Tina

    The book by Jhumpa Lahiri was absolutely amazing. It was one of my favorite books of all time. This movie made me cry at the end. It shows you so vividly the dreams of an Indian family and Indian rebellion. You can connect with the story perfectly, and all the actors did amazing jobs. The Namesake should have been a contender for the Oscars. A mind-blowing movie. Thank you so much Nirali for writing this article. It helped me explore more about this magical movie. And, finally, Mira Nair is astounding. A job perfectly done by her!

  32. June 19, 2007, 1:04 pm Tina

    and no i am not the same tina as the one all the way near the top that dissed the article!

  33. August 3, 2007, 10:49 am Sumit

    I have not yet seen the film but having read and loved the book I am definitely looking forward to it. As a Bengali living in the UK I felt it captured very well the experience of trying to follow your culture as well as forging your own identity.

    The Interpreter Of Maladies, Jhumpa’s short story collection is also well worth reading. Maybe Mira could adapt a few of them next!

  34. August 4, 2007, 5:42 am Mahesh

    This was one of the most moving films that I have seen so far. I especially liked the scenes with Irrfan and Kalpen together.

    The scene in which Irrfan takes young Gogol towards the sea reminded me of my childhood. Now I hope to read the novel “The overcoat”.

  35. September 9, 2007, 6:05 am Deepal

    All the way from Scotland, a message to the world that this film has touched many MANY people and it is one of my most treasured films, it makes me appreciate life and the struggles my parents went through to bring me here and give us all these opportunities. God Bless the story behind the namesake as it is a truly heartwarming story :D

  36. October 16, 2007, 7:56 am Ashwathi

    Although I am yet to see the movie, i simply loved the book.I read it, just bcos it was in my syllabus.I am an English Literature student. But had I not read the book, i wud have never understood my parents.But as far as I have read Gogol has more than 3-4 relationships, which, i dont know, makes me feel that he is insensitive to everyone.In the movie he has affairs with only 2 girls.But anyways i m dying to see this movie.Tabu should be tremendous and Irfan is as usual a Powerhouse of Potentials.

  37. December 12, 2007, 3:32 pm Francie

    I noticed a lot of posts on this site talking about “bloopers” in the movie. While I’m sure these people are astute observers, I’m not sure why they are mincing about these trivialities when there are such complex themes and unique characterizations to mull over. My advice to these people: rather than spending your time making yourself FEEL intelligent, BECOME intelligent by focusing on the important stuff.

  38. April 6, 2008, 1:01 am Asim Soofi

    I had the opportunity to watch this beautiful movie at an early sneak peak in Washington D.C. last year. Mira Nair’s gift of telling such a moving story so intimately was the perfect ingredient to engage the audience in a profound way, indifferent of background or culture. I don’t remember a single member in the audience that couldn’t move at the end as they were captivated into a moment of taking stock of their own lives, even some with tears. A great story well told and to share with family and friends.

  39. April 18, 2008, 2:21 pm Tiger Singh

    Sonia I’m afraid you’re mistaken. The language Hindi is separate from the language Urdu. Both have their own scripts and are completely different when you see them. Urdu is a mixture of Hindi, Persian (Farsi), Arabic and Pushtu. Hindi is derivative of Sanskrit, the ancient language of India from which all other Indian languages have come. You are correct in saying that Hindustani is the name for an Indian or to say that someone is from India. However, this word comes from the language called Hindustani. Hindustani is a mixture of Urdu and Hindi. It’s fusion language and is neither Hindi nor Urdu. The term for an Indian or to be from India, is Bharti, from the word for India, Bharat. India is called Bharat in Hindi, and Hindustan in Urdu or Hindustani.

  40. April 19, 2008, 12:47 pm Shazia

    I found the objections to Nair’s use of the word Hindustani to be oddly vicious so I went to the websites that were recommended to find out why. Both answers.com and wikipedia state that before Partition, Hindustani was synonymous with Urdu, that the word describes the spoken Hindi-Urdu that is mutually intelligible. The common language that Pakistanis and North Indians speak to each other is Hindustani. When I discovered this, it occurred to me that those who are objecting so vehemently to Hindustani are also objecting to the possibility that Hindus and Muslims are not that different, that we speak the same language and have similar cultures. Hasn’t enough blood been shed already? I would respectfully like to state that it is exactly this kind of rhetoric, the rhetoric that insists that Hindustani doesn’t exist as a language, this rhetoric that has already torn us apart and continues to fuel South Asian hatreds.

  41. May 2, 2008, 5:11 pm batseye

    Hindustani comes from a combination of Hindi words with a few Urdu words interspersed. Hindustani is more casual and it is easy to confuse it with Hindi itself.
    For eg;
    Hindi: Hamara desh bahut vishaal hai.
    Hindustani: Hamara mulk bahut bada hai.

  42. May 5, 2008, 11:27 pm Ahmed

    I saw this film last week on TV and i thought it was an interesting story, well directed. I particularly liked the character of Ashima Ganguli…for me, she represented one of the pluralistic characters of the Indian female..mild, patient and wise, the catharsis of which was captured so beautifully in the last frame of the film when Ashima sang in her native Kolkata. I loved that voice and song. i would love to know if anyone can direct me on how to get this music…I am assuming this is an old song?

  43. May 25, 2008, 11:34 pm Jasna

    Love how some people get so obsessed with correcting and criticizing, especially when it turns out they’re wrong. Lighten up a bit, will ya?

    Anyway, interesting article, and I appreciate all the research and effort put into creating it. I just finished the novel myself and haven’t gotten around to the movie yet, but I will soon. This article’s intrigued me even more about it.

  44. June 10, 2008, 3:59 pm Kristine Murphy

    I saw this absolutely beautiful movie just the other evening….after reading the book I wished I had a Bengali friend….

  45. June 30, 2008, 2:23 am Fritz LeChat

    I like Kal Penn and all, but the world’s most famous South Asian actor? Wouldn’t that be Amitabh?

  46. August 13, 2008, 11:42 am Marian Poucher

    My daughter gave me the book to read just last month, I read it in a couple of days and loved it. Today I saw the film on tv, it made me cry and like Kristine wished I had a Bengali friend. Everyone played an excellent part but i particualry liked Ashima, maybe its because i’m a mum and put myself in her place. If you have to choose one, read the book.

  47. August 21, 2008, 7:32 pm Patela

    This is one of the best movies I have ever seen. It’s the only movie that I thought came out better than the book, and that’s rare. I’m surprised Nair considered Bachan for Gogol, that would have been a HUGE mistake. Someone from India could not play this role, and Kalpen did an amazing job. My only complaint is I wish someone like Sarita Choudhury could have played the leading lady role. Sarita is too old for that part, but I’m sure there’s a young Indian woman who could have taken on that role and make it more believable.

  48. September 14, 2008, 10:29 pm Kali

    I found the story very touching, emotionally powerful. It was neither funny, or clever or thrilling, but I haven’t been teary eyed during a movie in a while. Thanks Jhumpa Lahiri for a great story that is our lives abroad the homeland. Can’t wait to read the book.

    As for the adaptation to the screen, I thought Tabu was fantastic. I thought Kal Penn was outstaged by her performance. Kal Penn kept putting on blank faces, which didn’t really make sense to me.

  49. October 23, 2008, 3:45 pm Claire the Brit

    I am not an Asian and so many of the cultural references in the emails ( eg The Big Hindustani debate) go over my head! However I really loved the film and the interesting and touching insight into cultural mores. The acting was very fine and the film beautiful to the eye. There are universal themes here which I found deeply moving. I look forward to more , much more of the same and with the same high standard of artistic merit. Everyone involved feels very proud of their achievement I am sure. I love Bollywood but there have been some extremely good Indian Art films over the last few years that have really shown the world a thing or two!

  50. October 26, 2008, 1:44 pm f

    Hindustani means Hindu and Pakistani(Urdu)

    because of Hindu and stani

    should be… Hindu and Urdu

    let’s see why don’t you use… Hindurdu :)

    for Hindi and English should be Hinglish or Hindish…

    :)

  51. November 14, 2008, 7:27 am Prasannah

    I read the article. It’s brilliant I must say. When I watched the movie, I felt it was father love for a son and son realices it very. I was not aware of the book other at that moment.

    Kal Penn was a surprice element for me in this movie. I liked him in Herald and Kumar. But never expected him to a serious movie like this. And when I read these things you have written it’s makes me think this guy’s got latents :)

    Basically I cast was really good Khan and Tabu superb performance. How much of effort they all have put make movie.

    Nice article.

  52. November 19, 2008, 11:54 am Bob Davidson

    Saw the film last night. Loved every minute.

  53. December 6, 2008, 9:08 pm Random

    The book was absolutely amazing! What makes it even better is the fact that most immigrants, like me, can relate to it.

  54. January 21, 2009, 8:17 am deepak

    awesome movie!!

  55. January 21, 2009, 1:48 pm melissa

    What is the song Ashima sings at the end…..LOVE IT! iT’S NOT ON THE SOUNDTRACK EITHER??

  56. March 29, 2009, 6:59 am Noyona

    Amna Zaim, Urdu’s grammar comes from the languages you mention, but the vocabulary does come from Hindi. Urdu was born out of the battlefields and camps of India and is a mixture of languages, mainly Hindi and Persian.

  57. March 30, 2009, 9:25 pm dtsp

    Gogol (the writer) was not Russian. He was Ukrainian.

    I’ve watched this film several times and read the book. This is not Gogol’s story. This movie belongs to Tabu to the extent that she is indelible in the role, but also, the way Nair films it. This movie is about the mother.

  58. May 22, 2009, 8:48 am Sal da man

    To Amna: Urdu’s derived from Farsi, Arabic, AND Hindi.

  59. September 7, 2009, 7:29 pm June

    I love this movie!! and is kinda strange but i feel kinda related to Gogols story, since im half mexican and half english, so im never mexican enough (im redhaired and very very pale) and never english enough (of course i have a mexican accent when i talk). Plus my bf (who i love 2 dead) is hindu (or indian??) so as u can see my life is very multicultural, but i try to see that as a good thing instead a bad one.

  60. September 22, 2009, 10:40 am yamy

    a mi me gusto