Mira Nair’s upcoming thriller The Reluctant Fundamentalist, presently in post-production, is based on the 2007 novel by Mohsin Hamid. The novel is set taking place over the course of one evening in a cafe of Lahore, in the post 9/11 era, where a bearded Pakistani called Changez approaches an unnamed American, joins him at his table and tells him his story. The narrative spans various continents, a love story and the impact 9/11 had on Changez’ and his friends lives, torn between the dream of a successful career on Wall Street and the love for his native country, Pakistan.
It stars Riz Ahmed as the protagonist Changez and Kate Hudson as Erica, his love interest. Other cast members include Kiefer Sutherland, Liev Schreiber and Shabana Azmi. The movie is not part of the official selection but will show footage in Cannes.
interview with Mohsin Hamid
Lahore is Delhi 50 years ago: Mira Nair
Internationally acclaimed filmmaker Mira Nair, who managed to shoot a part of her next project ” The Reluctant Fundamentalist” in Lahore, Pakistan, says the city, though unsafe to shoot in, was a “twin” to Indian capital New Delhi’s old world charm.
Nair managed to shoot in Lahore for four days, but had to shoot the remaining part in locations in New Delhi.
“We did succeed in shooting in Lahore for four days. But the remaining 20 days’ shooting for Lahore had to be done in Delhi,” said Nair, who admits the Pakistan schedule wasn’t a cakewalk.
“We had to do it with only a full Pakistani crew. It wasn’t safe to shoot there. But otherwise, such a beautiful, refined city and such a twin to Delhi! But Lahore is Delhi 50 years ago. So we had really look hard for a Delhi that isn’t so immediately visible to the eye,” she added.
“The Reluctant Fundamentalist”, based on Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid’s eponymous novel, narrates the transformation of a Princeton-educated Pakistani youth with a cushy American job and an American girlfriend.
Nair, who found international recognition with films like “Salaam Bombay”, “Monsoon Wedding”, ” Vanity Fair“, “The Namesake” and “Amelia”, hopes “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” gets released in Pakistan.
“I sure as hell hope it gets released in Pakistan. I mean I’m not too clear on political issues. But there’s a new liberalised trade policy between India and Pakistan. So if nothing else, at least we can hope to see the film gets released in Pakistan along with the rest of the world,” she said.
The US-based filmmaker says gets nostalgic as she talks about Pakistan.
“My father is from Lahore. I grew up with Pakistani culture all around me…qawwalis, shayari, the poetry of Faiz Ahmed Faiz,” she said, and added that she has also included a qawwali in her movie.
“I’ve put in a huge qawwali sequence in ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’… an original, traditional qawwali sung by Fareed Ayaz and Abu Mohamed. I grew up in Delhi, but I had Lahore all around me,” said Nair.
For now, she has immersed herself in the post-production work of the movie, which also features Shabana Azmi, in Mumbai.
“For the first time I am doing the post-production of my film in India, and it’s a blessing. It’s so economical,” said the filmmaker, who has roped in Shimit Amin of “Chak De! India” to edit the movie.
“To have Shimit Amin editing my film is a miracle. It’s amazing how I know him. I first invited him to come as artistic director and lecture in my film school in east Africa last summer.
“He happily came for two weeks to teach. I didn’t know him before that. But I loved his movies… I offered that he edit ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’.
“He said he’d love to edit my film. He’s total magic. And so egoless. He’s definitely making a film for me. I guess I’m lucky to get the right people on board,” she added.
Nair was recently also in Delhi to receive the Padma Bhushan award.
Currently in Mumbai, she is staying at her actress friend Shabana’s parental home in Janki Kutir, where Shabana’s mom, the formidable Shaukat Azmi stays.