Actor Kiefer Sutherland, known for the US TV series 24, is winning kudos for playing an opportunist capitalist, Jim Cross, in filmmaker Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Based on the novel by Moshin Hamid, it hits the screens here on May 17. The 46-year-old tells us over the phone how the movie is a mirror of people’s fear and prejudices post 9/11.
How do you define the character of Jim Cross?
He is an opportunist. He is someone who is smart enough to see someone who is maybe smarter than him, who can help him and in that context give him as long as what he needs for his purpose. He is a great caretaker. At the same time, when that relationship is no longer serving a purpose to him, he cuts it loose.
Isn't he symbolic of the corporate fundamentalism prevalent today?
Yes, I'd say absolutely.
What drew you to the character?
I normally don't take a film based on the character. In fact there were two characters that I wanted to play - I'd have loved to play Liev Schrieber's character as well. I was drawn to the film as a very important perspective - 9/11 or no 9/11. One of the best things about America is that it has the ability to look back and reflect on things. I think the film examines how we dealt with that shock. The kind of prejudice, racism and ignorance that is born out of fear is something that I think they (the Americans) need to address and the film does that. I was generally attracted to that idea.
Were you aware about Mira Nair and her body of work before signing the film?
I was very aware of her work. She premiered Monsoon Wedding in Toronto at the film festival. My family is from there and I was very aware of her. I was honoured to be considered to work with her. I was thrilled about that.
Were there any apprehensions in taking the project especially after 9/11 considering the protagonist of the film is a Muslim character?
You have to remember that my intention is to be a part of a film that says something and if I can help by playing one of the characters that is no problem for me. I hope people who watch the movie realise that we are actors playing the parts and it is the ultimate story that we are trying to tell.
Do you think racism still exists in Hollywood and America?
Prejudice and racism is not exclusive to the United States. It is a global problem and the more films that we can make to articulate the difficulties of people who are minorities and the difficult cultures that they are living in, the greater understanding it'll be.
Did you catch up with your 'only' friend from Bollywood, Anil Kapoor when you cam to India to shoot the flick?
Anil was the first person I was supposed to go with. When he was in the US, he'd tell me all these fantastic stories about where he had come from. He was the first person really who told me about the places he wanted to take me and everything else, and unfortunately I've been working and he's been working, so I haven't had the time to visit him yet. But he certainly knew when I was going to New Delhi.