Mohsin Hamid on Mira Nair’s film version of his novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Amna R. Ali in Newsline:

Do you think the film has done justice to the novel vis-à-vis adaptation?

Mohsin_Hamid09-12I would put it slightly differently; I don’t think the job of a film is to be a novel on screen. A film is a work of art that is inspired by, in this case, a novel. A lot of people may say that the film didn’t do justice to the novel etc…but I would ask, is the film itself a good film? The reason why that is the right criterion to judge is because, a novel works by allowing the reader to do much of the imagining in their minds as they read it. It’s like going to a shop and buying tomatoes, onions, rice and lentils etc. and cooking a meal. It’s your shopping list. A film is like a meal that’s been cooked for you. You know what things look like, sound like – it’s all pre-imagined for you. So, it’s natural that readers will feel that the film may not do justice to the book, because the film is somebody else imagining, not you. But, I don’t think it’s the right lens to view the success of a film. What’s more important is, does the film work aesthetically? Are its politics in the right place? Does it have real integrity and power?

Did you have any input in the writing the script? Did the scriptwriters, William Wheeler and Ami Boghani coordinate with you at any point?

Mira tried to find someone from Hollywood to do it and had enormous difficulty, because she could find people who could do Wall Street, but they couldn’t do Pakistan, or people who could do Pakistan but couldn’t do Wall Street. Finally, she asked Ami Boghani, who at the time was Mira’s assistant and later became a co-producer of the film, and me, to write the first couple of drafts of the complete screenplay under her guidance. Ami and I produced a couple of drafts, after which Wheeler was hired to take it to a different level, since neither Ami nor I are trained screenwriters.

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