Any film that features television images from 9/11 in its pivotal scene is certain to push buttons. And Indian-American director Mira Nair pushes several in her film version of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, based on the best-selling novel by Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid.
At the Toronto International Film Festival, where it was screened after its premiere at the Venice Film Festival's opening night, Nair outlined how this was possibly the most difficult project she has undertaken.
"It was the most difficult project to finance since Salaam Bombay," Nair said. The economic climate after the 2008 meltdown hardly helped. But the main hurdle with financiers was it had a Muslim character at its centre and followed his journey from a predatory Wall Street firm to apparent radicalisation. A cast that includes Hollywood stars like Kiefer Sutherland, Liev Schreiber and Kate Hudson, didn't appear to help much. "Even with that kind of heavy wattage, the subject matter scared people." Ultimately, the Doha Film Institute financed the film.
Another problem was shooting in Pakistan. "We filmed four days in Pakistan; all exterior streets are Lahore. But we couldn't get insurance to bring actors over." Those scenes were enacted in Old Delhi, with locations like the Anglo-Arabic School near Ajmeri Gate standing in for Lahore University, or an art deco bungalow on Amrita Shergill Marg replacing a Lahore residence.