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THE NAMESAKE

The Story Of Ashoke And Ashima
If Gogol makes a vast transformation throughout the years, his parents Ashima and Ashoke ride the waves of an even larger journey -- from the nervous bride and groom of an arranged marriage to overwhelmed immigrants in New York City to suburban parents and finally, to a profoundly loving husband and wife facing life's biggest changes.

For Mira Nair, the love story between Ashoke and Ashima is central to the themes of THE NAMESAKE. "They have a deep yet unconventional love story,” says the director. "They are complete strangers when they wed and then we watch as they fall in love slowly over the years. It is a love that is not about saying ‘I love you' dozens of times a day or sending out Hallmark cards, but it's captured in how they look at each other. It's a love that might be cloaked in propriety but underneath it is as boiling and passionate and full of humor and whimsy as any young love affair today.”

To play Ashima, Nair cast one of India's most beloved and versatile actresses, Tabu, who has starred in over 70 feature films and is adored in Bollywood, yet here makes her Hollywood debut. "Tabu is in my view one of India's greatest actresses and also a consistently brave performer,” Nair says. "She is one of the few actresses I can think of who could transform into an enchanting, blithe, mischievous 23 year-old girl who is about to discover her life – and then to carry that all the way through to the gravitas and dignity of a 48 year-old woman who has experienced birth, death and everything in between.”

Novelist Jhumpa Lahiri was especially gratified by Tabu's evocation of Ashima. "Tabu found just the right mixture of revealing Ashima as someone who is quite vulnerable and lost and pained by everything she's experiencing, yet is also resilient and strong and a true survivor,” she says.

Kal Penn was also moved by Tabu's performance as his character's devoted mother. "What was really amazing to me is that Tabu's actually so youthful in real life and yet when she plays my middle-aged mother, I could really feel this tremendous presence of maturity and life experience coming from her. She was able to turn instantly into this beautiful mother figure. It was always remarkable watching her work.”

For Tabu, the initial lure of THE NAMESAKE was simply the chance to work with Mira Nair for the first time. "I've always wanted to do something with her,” says the actress, "so I was really happy when she approached me for the role of Ashima. I had already read the book and knew it would be a wonderful experience because the character is so important to the story and goes through such a wide range of emotions and experiences.”

Although Ashima winds up leaving India behind and living as an American suburbanite – a different path than her own -- Tabu could easily relate to her. "She is so truly Indian at heart that I really identified with her,” she explains. "I'm not an immigrant but I've always wondered how people make these incredible transitions and departures, moving to a new country where everything is so different – where family, marriage, all the institutions have different rules. You have to create an entirely different reality for yourself, which is a very difficult thing to do and quite interesting to imagine. Ashima is a very Indian woman but she must find a way to create a family in the United States without losing herself.”

Tabu was also drawn to the film's universal elements. "On the one hand, THE NAMESAKE is a film about America, but it's also about a subject that touches everyone: family. It's about all the people from so many different countries who have made America their home while still trying to carry their cultures and pass them down to the next generations. I think that's a very unique and beautiful experience that interests us all.”

As an actress, she espec

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