Rashid Irani's review: The Reluctant Fundamentalist

  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist

    The Reluctant Fundamentalist is directed by Indian-American director Mira Nair. It's a coming-of-age story of a young man struggling to find his identity in America ...

  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist

    The Reluctant Fundamentalist is based on the eponymous novel by Mohsin Hamid.

  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist

    Critically acclaimed actors Shabana Azmi and Om Puri will also be seen in the film.

  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist

    The film, Nair says, is also her first attempt at a thriller. She is happy to finally bring the film to Indian audiences after travelling ...

  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist

    About the film, Mira Nair said, "I made the film because I lamented that post 9/11, there has been a real lack of conversation between ...

  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist

    The film stars British-Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed as Changez. Hollywood stars like Kate Hudson, Liev Schreiber and Kiefer Sutherland play key roles in the movie. ...

  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist

    The 55-year-old director is happy to have brought together talent from different parts of the world to tell the story of her movie.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Direction: Mira Nair
Actors: Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson
Rating: ***

A Pakistani immigrant working as a financial analyst for an A-list Wall Street company is tasked with closing down a failing Istanbul publishing firm. At one of their meetings, the publisher talks of his country’s ancient Christian-Muslim conflict.

The analyst is also presented with a book of his poet-father in a Turkish translation. Soon afterwards, he goes to a basilica-turned-mosque to pray, has an epiphany and decides not to chase the American Dream anymore.

The lack of subtlety which pervades Mira Nair’s film is especially evident in these crucial scenes. Adapted from the 2007 novel by Mohsin Hamid, this well-intentioned political thriller uses the terrorist attacks of 9/11 as a springboard to probe abidingly relevant issues of xenophobia, violence and extremist ideologies. The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a long and lurching saga of Changez Khan (Ahmed), the twenty-something financier disenchanted with the United States.

Struggling against the upsurge of prejudice following the destruction of the twin towers, Khan finds himself a stranger in a strange land. He returns to Pakistan to take up a teaching assignment at a radicalized university. Utilizing the ungainly framing device of an interview with an American foreign correspondent (Liev Shreiber), the director feverishly cuts back and forth between Manhattan and Lahore in an attempt to ratchet up the tension.


The climactic clashes between the militant students, local authorities and the U.S. military personnel are sluggishly staged. The romantic interludes with an aspiring artist (dark haired Hudson, miscast) are wishy-washy. There are a couple of vivid vignettes such as the racial profiling and strip-search at the airport.

Recounting his emotions on the day the planes slammed into the towers, Khan says: “In that moment I should have felt sorrow and anger. But all I felt was awe and admiration for its audacity”. It’s quite an unsettling encounter. In the title role, Riz Ahmed skillfully builds up an ambiguous personality. Despite his best efforts, The Reluctant Fundamentalist leaves no lasting impression.

 

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