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THE NAMESAKE
[Shot in 2005 for a 2006 release]

Novel By: Jhumpa Lahiri
Screenwriter: Sooni Taraporevala
Director: Mira Nair

The Namesake is Lahiri's first novel after her collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1999. The Namesake is a contemporary view of the themes of the immigrant experience, the clash of cultures, the conflicts of assimilation, and most poignantly, the tangled ties between generations.

Hopscotching across twenty-five years, the screenplay of The Namesake begins when newlyweds Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli emigrate from Calcutta to New York. Ashima immediately gives birth to a son, Gogol-a pet name inspired by the Russian novelist Nikolai Gogol that becomes permanent when his formal name, traditionally bestowed by the maternal grandmother, is posted in a letter from India, but lost in transit.

A leap ahead to the eighties finds the teenage Gogol ashamed of his Indian heritage and his unusual name, which he sheds as he moves on to college and graduate school at Columbia. When Gogol falls in love with a young white woman, he moves into the home of her wealthy, Manhattan family and is initiated into a lifestyle idealized in Ralph Lauren ads. This relationship falls apart when his father dies and he experiences a re-connection with his traditional cultural values.

Later, his mother introduces him to a Bengali woman. They fall in love and marry, but they fail to find a common ground in the balance of Indian and American values in their own personal identities. The tale comes full circle when the protagonist, home for a Bengali Christmas, rediscovers his father's gift of Gogol's short stories and learns the true significance of his namesake, finally making peace with his unique culture identity.

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THE IMPRESSIONIST
[In Development]

Novel by: Hari Kunzru
Screenwriter: Sooni Taraporevala
Director: Mira Nair
Development: Fox Searchlight

The Impressionist tells the story of Pran Nath, a half white half Indian boy who learns how to bridge the enormous racial and social divides in the Raj of the 1920s, crossing from one side to another in a series of reinventions of his own personality.

Pran begins as the spoiled child of a wealthy Indian lawyer, but when news of his true parentage by an English man is revealed, he is thrust out of his home and into the dangerous life of the streets. The story follows him from his days as a street beggar to his years as a sex slave catering to the bizarre tastes of his white clients to his apprenticeship as a lab assistant to the fanatical missionary who collects skulls of members of "inferior" races and measures their cranial capacity.

Through all this Pran comes to realize that identity is a lot more fluid than many of the people he encounters like to think. After honing his chameleon-like skills, he is shocked to find that he's able to pass as an Englishman and enter the halls of Oxford University. But Pran soon discovers that his gift for manipulating surface appearances comes at a huge cost. In the end, the ultimate transformation back to his authentic self proves to be the most challenging one of all.

 
   
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