Mira Nair finally unveiled the trailer of her much-awaited film The Reluctant Fundamentalist for the first time in India. The 56-year-old director talks about why she decided to make the film and how in some ways it’s a mirror of her own life.
Based on the novel by Mohsin Hamid, the film tells the story of Changez Khan, a Pakistani brought up in New York, where he feels most at home. And then 9/11 happens, and things change overnight for Changez, who suddenly turns a suspicious ‘outsider’.
In a candid chat at the famous Amphitheatre of the India Habitat Centre, Mira Nair speaks about what went into the making of the film.
Born to a father who belonged to Lahore, Mira talked about how we all usually tend to speak of Pakistan only from the time of partition, revealing that she wanted to tell the story of contemporary Pakistan.
Mira Nair at Penguin Spring Fever, New Delhi
Speaking of her inspiration from ‘Cinema Verite’ (Cinema of Truth), Mira says, “Truth is so much more powerful than fiction in my work. The spring board for making The Reluctant Fundamentalist was my trip to Lahore. It was a familiar and moving experience. I was awed by the largeness of it, the art of it and wanted to portray a contemporary Pakistan.”
Having lived in New York for so long, Mira like Changez, felt at home in this melting pot until the terror attacks of 9/11 happened.
She recalls and relays the next 8 months or so when things had drastically changed for Asians, who were all eyed warily. Mira, who’s married to Ugandan Muslim Mahmood Mamdani, recalls feeling the heat. She talks about how they’d sometimes decide not to go to the mosque on certain days, for all Muslims were eyed with suspicion.
“I wanted to create a dialogue with America, which is also a home for me,” she continues as she talks of exploring the question that fascinates her, “Can a settler ever really become a native?”
It was these and other factors that made Mira yearn to make a film on this theme when she read Mohsin Hamid’s novel.
About this and other adaptations of hers, Mira says, “They’re a confluence of what life teaches you and what you learn on the way.”
On what drove her to make such a film, Mira says, “If we don’t all tell our stories, no one else will!”
Mira was in Delhi to promote her film at the Spring Fever Festival by Penguin Books, a platform for such globe-trotting stories.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist stars Riz Ahmed in the lead role, along with Kate Hudson and Liev Schreiber and is scheduled to release in India on May 10.