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Perhaps there is no one better suited to directing the film adaptation of Moshin Hamid’s novel than Mira Nair. She has credit as the director of THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST, but she was as involved in adapting the script (a three-year process) as she was in deciding on the casting, and in making sure that the music was as culture-spanning as the story. Born and raised in India, educated at Harvard, Nair has lived and worked all over the world, bringing Thackery to life in a maddeningly underappreciated VANITY FAIR, as well as exploring the nuances of modern courtship in India with MONSOON WEDDING.
THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST is about Changez, a Pakistani who has made a financial and social success of himself in the world of New York high finance, but is then forced to choose his true identity in the aftermath of 9/11. The scene of him returning from an oversees business trip with his Caucasian co-workers, and being separated from them before a strip-search that is as surprising to him as it is devastating, brings a whole new perspective to the world at that time, and sets the scene for Changez’ eventual embrace of Muslim fundamentalism. But, like everything else in the film, it’s not that simple. And it’s not that straightforward.
This is a film that demands of its audience a rejection of pre-conceived notions and subconscious prejudices. In exchange, it will richly reward that audience with a world-view that is complex, but eye-opening.
I spoke with the director on October 11, 2012, during the Mill Valley Film Festival, where she was being (rightly) celebrated for her wide-ranging body of work. Nair is as vibrant as her films, and the conversation moved easily from the experiences her adolescent son has had with American passport control, to the pan-cultural music that is as integral to the film as the story itself. She is a woman who is unapologetic about bringing her vision to the screen, and emphatic about THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST becoming a catalyst for dialogue. You can listen to the interview here.