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Reluctant Fundamentalist is Mira Nair's ode to Lahore


SAIBAL CHATTERJEE | Toronto, September 10, 2012 20:32
Tags : totonton international film festival | The Reluctant Fundamentalist | mira nair |

New York-based filmmaker Mira Nair’s screen adaptation of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Pakistani writer Mohsin Hamid’s best-selling novel of the same title, has all the narrative ingredients that could endear it to audiences around the world.

The film, shot in New York, Delhi (which passes off as Lahore) and Istanbul (instead of Santiago in the book), benefits enormously from a solid lead performance by Riz Ahmed, seen last year in Michael Winterbottom’s Trishna.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist, which was the opening film of this year’s Venice Film Festival, received a warm, enthusiastic response at its North American premiere at the ongoing 37th Toronto International Film Festival.
Besides Nair and Ahmed, cast members Kate Hudson and Kiefer Sutherland and British rocker Peter Gabriel, who set a Faiz Ahmed Faiz verse, Bol ke lab azaad hain tere, for the film, attended the premiere.
The story of a Pakistani immigrant, Changez Khan, who is recruited from Princeton University by a Wall Street valuation firm is told in a manner that balances the intimate, introspective nature of Mohsin Hamid’s prose and the cinematic need for narrative pace and energy. A difficult feat that.
Changez possesses the skills needed to rise quickly up the corporate ladder in a cut-throat world but he is eventually disillusioned with the American Dream as racial profiling peaks post-9/11. He returns to his home city, Lahore, to teach at the university and assumes a radical garb. 
Aided by director of photography Declan Quinn, Mira Nair contrasts the cold, clinical glass-and-steel ambience of Wall Street with the colourful, chaotic Lahore setting. The soundscape of New York is controlled; Lahore is a riot of noises.
At a press conference here on Sunday, which incidentally was the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, Nair described The Reluctant Fundamentalist as an “Indo-Pak film” aimed at building a bridge between the two countries.
Pakistani talent on view in the film include the singer and model Meesha Shafi in her big screen acting debut, crooner Atif Aslam who renders two Faiz Ahmed Faiz verses and, of course, writer Mohsin Hamid, who was involved with the scripting process.
Nair revealed that the Lahore exteriors, including the Badshahi Mosque, were shot by a second unit in the Pakistani city, but it was Delhi that stood in for the film’s principal location during a 25-day shoot. “Delhi and Lahore are twin cities. We created Pak Tea Shop in Ajmeri Gate opposite Old Delhi railway station,” she added.
Nair has dedicated The Reluctant Fundamentalist to the memory of her father, “a true Lahori”, who passed away earlier this year.


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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017