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RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST, THE – FEATURED PREVIEW

FUNDAMENTAL-IST QUESTIONS ….
In the wake of 9/11, smart young Pakistani, Changez (Riz Ahmed), chases corporate success on Wall Street, working for Jim Cross (Kiefer Sutherland) in a prestigious financial consultancy. Living in the suspicious, terrorism-altered Western world, he is often singled out by authorities simply because he looks like a Muslim. He falls in love with Erica (Kate Hudson) but ultimately finds himself embroiled in a conflict between his American Dream, a hostage crisis in Pakistan, and the enduring call of his family's homeland. He tries to tell his complicated story to columnist Bobby Lincoln (Liev Schreiber), but perceptions and mistrust overwhelm them both.


The Film:
Mira Nair on her film: “Over the last few years, we have seen many films about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but always told from the American point of view. In our story, the encounter between the characters of Changez and Bobby mirrors the mutual suspicion with which America and Pakistan (or the Muslim world) looks at one another. We learn that as a result of America's war on terror, Changez experiences a seismic shift in his own attitude, unearthing allegiances more fundamental than money, power, and maybe even love.

“But other forms of fundamentalism are revealed along the way, including the kind practiced by Changez's former employer, Underwood Samson. Their model for global expansion is, "Focus on the Fundamentals." From the title of the film, and from the increasingly tense atmosphere arising between Changez and his American listener, the expectation is that Changez is moving towards the revelation that he has gone, however ‘reluctantly,’ all the way over to the dark side of extremism. But is this really the case? The remarkable aspect of The Reluctant Fundamentalist is that it is a true dialogue about identity and perception, and issues around the divided self in the era of globalization.

“The Reluctant Fundamentalist is an exercise in personal healing and reconnection. There are elements of my own family and me that have felt impacted by the events of the past decade. The film is an attempt, among other things, to knit the pieces back together. Not by denying the tensions that have appeared, but by illustrating the ways in which we can navigate them and be human despite them.” 

Nair, the mother of a 21 year-old son, hopes to reach young people around the world with this film. “It’s for them, so hopefully they can be strong and recognize their journey in Changez.”


“Mira Nair made clear that for cinematic reasons, they would have to fill in some of the novel’s blanks. They had to establish who these two characters are from the beginning. (Along with the screenwriter William Wheeler, they decided that the American was a C.I.A. officer working undercover as a journalist and that the Pakistani was a popular professor with militant connections.) And they had to decide what happens at the end — what the characters do after the novel’s deliberately inconclusive last page, and how their actions reflect not just their roles in world politics but also their value as human beings. 

“It’s a risky proposition commercially to make a film about a clash of ideas in a foreign country, much less the clash of these ideas in Pakistan. And in fact this film almost wasn’t made. One prospective investor offered Ms. Nair’s longtime producer, Lydia Dean Pilcher, $2 million. Ms. Nair recounted that when the investor was told that the budget would have to be much higher, he replied: “You have a Muslim as protagonist. Two million is all it’s worth.” 

(The Doha Film Institute in Qatar, which had initially agreed to finance half the film’s budget, stepped in to cover the entire cost. which amounted to just under $15 million. - Extract from an article by Fred Kaplan in The New York Times

The film was shot in Lahore, Istanbul, New York City, Atlanta, and Delhi.

Festivals:
Venice, 2012; Opening Film
Toronto International Film Festival, 2012
Mill Valley, 2012

Awards:
Mill Valley Film Festival – Audience Award, Favourite World Feature

Critics:
William Wheeler has forged a richly complex, achingly satisfying screenplay from Mohsin Hamid’s hugely popular, Booker Prize shortlisted novel and Mira Nair has turned it into a significant and powerful film with something to say. Much to say, in fact. – Andrew L. Urban, Urban Cinefile

Director Mira Nair embraces the subject matter with great passion, bringing with her film a sense of idealism as it tosses up questions about morality, loyalty and the fundamental truths that make us who we are. Louise Keller, Urban Cinefile

The screenplay by Ami Boghani and William Wheeler is virtually a master class in how to adapt an apparently unadaptable source. Mohsin Hamid's first-person novel is a monologue by Changez told as he sits over tea with a mysterious American. The film turns this narrowly focused, uncinematic fiction into a layered thriller full of Pakistani and American players, from Martin Donovan as a CIA officer to Om Puri as Changez' father, a poet with no use for the business of financial analysts. – Caryn James, Huffington Post

The Novel:
The novel was shortlisted for the 2007 Booker Prize. It also won an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the South Bank Show Annual Award for Literature, and several other awards. The Guardian selected it as one of the books that defined the decade. Many American universities chose the book as required reading for all incoming freshmen as a topic for discussion.

Published May 9, 2013

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Director: Mira Nair

Script: William Wheeler (novel by Mohsin Hamid, 2007)

Producer: Lydia Dean Pilcher

Cinematographer: Declan Quinn

Editor: Shimit Amin

Music: Michael Andrews

Run time: 129 minutes

In Australian cinemas from May 23, 2013


Mira Nair







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