A radical hard sell: Mira Nair’s ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’

From Financial Times:

MiranAs ambitious as a Bond film in its five-country narrative, the adaptation of Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid’s Booker prize-shortlisted book equates the economic fundamentalism of hard-headed western business and the violent religious ideology sweeping the Islamic world. Parallels are drawn between their dehumanised adherents, and swift, brutal judgments.

…“I wanted to make a film about contemporary Pakistan and not one riddled by partition and the weight of all that because [as Indians] that is all we see. We don’t see anything that is now.” More broadly, she wanted to tell a tale of a global conflict from the other side, and took The Battle of Algiers, Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1966 film about the Algerian revolution, as inspiration. “From Vietnam’s Deer Hunter to Iraq, films are never about the person who has had his house destroyed. I want to tell the other side … It’s really about this duel, this dance. “At its heart it is a thriller. The colour is all very well but it’s what is going to happen. Is he or isn’t he [a fundamentalist]? That’s an amazing razor to walk on,” she says. “The elegance of the story is that you don’t know what side our hero is on.”

Unlike Hamid’s book, Nair’s softer, homespun optimism wins out. The protagonist’s lover in New York does not fade away with anorexia, depression and suicide. The climax of the book is left darkly to the reader’s imagination; less so in the film, where the hero steps back from violence. Monsoon Terrorist is what Hamid, who worked on the adaptation, dubs the film. Lighter fare is almost certainly next. Nair is working on taking Monsoon Wedding to Broadway as a musical. Six out of 12 songs have been written and composed. The pull of high-rolling, Hindi-language Bollywood is also strong. Nair tells how her accountant entreats her to turn to more commercial cinema. “‘I trade on your name,’ he says, ‘but when I look at your bank account, I say: why, why don’t you make just one Bollywood film, please?’” He should not expect Nair to break a habit of a lifetime. “My films, no one else will do,” she says.

More here.

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