As the world is going continuously global, one might find it difficult to preserve one’s cultural identity. The films Namesake (2006) and Namaste London (2007) explore the struggle between belonging to one’s own culture and openness to the world. Both of them deal with Indian immigrants who have to go back to their roots by traveling to India. Even though the genre and the characters of the two films are different, they both share the same message that one’s cultural identity should not be a limit to development but a way to open one’s eyes to the diversity of the world. The characters of the film go the country of their ancestors to discover what their roots are but this also helps them realize that they are free to choose their own way.
In this respect, Namesake has more depth and explores the theme of cultural identity from different perspectives. It is a drama by genre, and this determines the plot and the challenges that the characters have to face in order to find their place in the world. The protagonist whose name is Gogol after a Russian writer is a second generation American with parents who immigrated to the United States from Bengalia. The young man feels little connection with his Indian ethnicity, yet his father’s decision to organize the family’s travel to their country of origin forces him to explore this aspect of his personality. His identity search goes through the relationship with women but he does not cope either with building a stable couple either with an American Maxine or Bengalian Moushumi. These are two cultural opposites where he cannot find his own path, as he realizes that he needs to have a fresh start and explore the world with no boundaries or limits. The death of his father from heart attack makes him more sensitive and open to his own culture but he realizes that being either Indian or American is a restriction that he is not satisfied with, so he prefers to go beyond these boundaries and travel around the world.
Likewise, the film Namastey London features a family of Indian immigrants, this time to Britain. Like Gogol, Jasmeet, or Jazz in a western manner, does not relate herself to her Indian roots. She is modern, fashionable, pretty and educated, and prefers to think of herself as British and communicate with non-Indians. However, while they travel to India, his father decides that she has to marry Arjun, an Indian and she has to obey despite her protest. Yet, when they are back to Britain, she finds a local boyfriend, Charlie Brown, whom she wants to marry and refuses to recognize being married to Arjun because the ceremony is not official in Britain. However, in the course of time, she sees the true nature of her fiancé and his family. Despite the fact that she desperately tries to fit in into their circle, they remain racist and prejudiced in their attitude to her. It is at this moment that Jazz realizes the value of Arjun who takes sides with her and protects her dignity. The girl understands that she should not be ashamed of her Indian identity but should accept who she is. Unlike Namesake, this film is a romantic comedy which presupposes happy ending and complete resolution of conflicts.
Personally, I enjoyed both films because they helped me to see the challenges that people face within different cultures and the way they act to change the situation. In Namesake the main character returns to his roots but realizes that belonging to any culture is only part of his identity, so he becomes rather a citizen of the world. This in a strong message because it shows that one should explore beyond the comfort zone and open to new experiences. In contrast, Namastey London features of immigrants’ inconfidence about who they are and their attempt to reject their roots, which does not work in the end. The film made me realize that it is important for a person to accept one’s own culture, this makes one grow and get rid of prejudice to other people.