New York: With Mira Nair's The Namesake ready for release in the US, lead actor Kal Penn in New York spoke to CNN-IBN about the most interesting aspect of his character, Gogol Ganguli.
Kal Penn: I think the things that really make Gogol interesting are not just whether he is Indian or American. It's really what makes him tick, his passion for architecture and his relationship with his family. Those are the more interesting choices which are obviously very different than my own experiences and that's the great challenge of being able to play a role like this, I think.
Indira Kannan: You have read Jhumpa Lahiri's book. Were there any portions that you wished had not been left out or had been treated differently in the film?
Kal Penn: Not treated differently in the film, but I loved the years at Yale. I would have loved to have played those scenes.
Indira Kannan: This is probably the first time you have been directed by an Indian filmmaker in a major studio production in an Indian-American character. Did that bring any added perspective to your character?
Kal Penn: I don't view Gogol within those confines, so it's hard for me to say. The way that I view The Namesake is that it's a beautiful, moving book about a family and the film hopefully has that same effect. I think if you focus too much on the character being Indian-American then it almost becomes boring and unrelatable because it becomes too much about ethnicity. But I think in this case it's about family and everyone can relate to that no matter where you're from.
Indira Kannan: Part of this movie was shot in India. What was it like for you to visit India and to film there?
Kal Penn: It was great, I'd never been to Kolkata before. It was completely chaotic, which was perfect because the city really is a character in the story. So to be able to be dropped right into the centre of the city and have the city respond to you as it would if it were written, that was a great experience.
Indira Kannan: And did you pick up any Bengali while making this film?
Kal Penn: A little bit, which I've forgotten since.