Crossing Dangerous Borders: Mira Nair on ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’

Fred Kaplan in The New York Times:

MiraIt seems far-fetched that “The Reluctant Fundamentalist,” Mohsin Hamid’s 2007 best-selling novel, would be turned into a movie. First, there’s its narrative structure. A young man greets an American tourist in a cafe in the Pakistani city of Lahore and proceeds to tell his life story. That’s the entire book; we never hear from the American or anyone else. But also, the young man, Changez Khan, is a bearded Pakistani radical, not a sympathetic type on American screens. Finally, as the tale unfolds, clues mount that he might be a terrorist and the American might be a spy who has come to kill him, although this remains ambiguous — a literary trait hard to capture on film. And yet the movie is opening on Friday, directed by Mira Nair, who may also seem an odd choice — “an Indian director making a Pakistani film in America,” as she puts it.

From another angle, though, Ms. Nair is a natural fit. Her father was raised in Lahore before the partitioning that carved out Pakistan as a separate nation. Later, as a lawyer in New Delhi, he helped found the India-Pakistan Friendship Society. Ms. Nair first visited Lahore only in 2004, when she was 47, as a result of a speaking invitation. (Her films are popular in Pakistan as well as in her native India.) “The trip had a big impact on me,” she recalled in an interview in her apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. “There was this incredible feeling of familiarity — the hospitality, the music, the artistic expression: modern paintings are everywhere. We never see this aspect of contemporary Pakistan on our screens.” She resolved to change that. Two years later she read Mr. Hamid’s novel in galleys, saw it as an ideal vehicle and arranged to meet the author in London, where he was living. A fan of her films, he sold her the rights and helped with some early drafts of the screenplay.

More here. (Note: Saw the film, loved it, recommend it strongly)