The Reluctant Fundamentalist (film)
The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a 2012 political thriller drama film based on the 2007 novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid, directed by Mira Nair, starring Riz Ahmed and Kate Hudson in lead. The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a post-9/11 story about the impact of the Al Qaeda attacks on one Pakistani man and his treatment by Americans in reaction to them.
|The Reluctant Fundamentalist|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Mira Nair|
|Produced by||Lydia Dean Pilcher|
|Written by||Mohsin Hamid |
|Screenplay by||William Wheeler |
|Based on||The Reluctant Fundamentalist|
by Mohsin Hamid
|Music by||Michael Andrews|
|Edited by||Shimit Amin|
|Distributed by||IFC Films|
In 2007, Nair read the manuscript of Hamid's unpublished novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist. After reading it, she immediately decided to make a film. Her production house, Mirabai Films, and Nair's long-time partner, producer Lydia Dean Pilcher's production company, Cine Mosaic, optioned the film rights to the novel. The film was produced by Lydia and co-produced by freelance screenwriter Ami Bogani, Hansi Farsi, Anadil Hossain and US producer Robin Sweet. The estimated budget of the film is $15 million. The film was a major box office flop, earning only $2.1 million worldwide.
The film premiered as the opening film for the 69th Venice International Film Festival, and at the 37th Toronto International Film Festival. The film had a limited release in the United States, India, and in Europe and North America. In Pakistan, the film was released in Urdu with a changed title as Changez on 24 May 2013. In Africa, the film premiered in Kampala, Uganda, on 24 August 2013. The film also screened at the 31st Munich International Film festival. The film won "Centenary Award" at the 43rd International Film Festival of India held in Goa. Upon its release, the film received mixed reviews from critics. The film received several awards, many of them honoring the film's efforts to address tolerance and xenophobia.
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Anse Rainier (Gary Richardson), an American professor at Lahore University, is kidnapped and held for ransom. An American journalist in Pakistan called Bobby Lincoln (Liev Schreiber), arranges to interview a colleague of Rainer, Changez Khan (Riz Ahmed), whom he suspects is involved in the kidnapping.
Changez starts off the interview, held in a café, by declaring his admiration for the American equal playing field in economic advancement. He belongs to a class of people who, while genteel and educated, increasingly find themselves left out of economic progress. His father is a well respected poet (Om Puri), but money has always been difficult for the family and Changez was only able to attend college when he got a scholarship to Princeton University. After graduation, he earns a job position at a top Wall Street valuation firm, Underwood Samson. Meanwhile, he starts a relationship with an American photographer, Erica (Kate Hudson).
While Changez is in Manila on business the World Trade Center is attacked. On returning to the USA, he is strip-searched at the airport. Later as he is leaving work, he is mistakenly arrested and interrogated by federal agents. His relationship with Erica is strained because she feels responsible for the death of her former boyfriend, in a drunk driving accident, and is distant because of her work. Erica invites Changez to the opening of her art show, but he is angered to discover she has used intimate details of their relationship in her art and breaks up with her.
While valuating a publishing house in Istanbul, Changez learns that the financially worthless firm had translated some of his father's work into Turkish and published them. He has a change of heart and quits his job. He refuses to close down the company and his boss and mentor at Underwood Samson, Jim Cross (Kiefer Sutherland), is furious. Changez resigns from Underwood Samson.
During his interview with Lincoln, Changez says that at one point he was approached by a terrorist cell and asked to become a mujahid, and he was tempted to accept, feeling deeply angered and disillusioned by "the arrogance, the blindness, the hypocrisy" of the USA, but he refuses when he was told about the "fundamental truths" of the Quran, echoing a phrase Jim Cross had used during their first encounter, "focusing on the fundamentals." Elaborating on the similarities, he explains that both groups, Islamic fundamentalists and blind capitalist economy represented by Underwood Samson, share the same reductionist outlook, view people in simple terms, and exploit them.
Unemployed, his visa expires and Changez returns home to Lahore, Pakistan. He is hired as a lecturer, as foreign professors had left the university. He voices dissatisfaction with US intrusions in Pakistan, and bringing him to the attention of the authorities, who raid his office and family home and threaten his family. Lincoln was seen nearby and Changez reveals he knows Lincoln is working for the CIA, and has deduced that it was Rainier who recruited him to the CIA .
As Lincoln and Changez talk in the café, protestors gather outside, and Lincoln gets periodic pressure from his CIA superiors to get information from Changez about the location of the kidnapped Rainier. The protests become increasingly hostile, and Changez says he has heard of a butcher shop. Contact is lost before the information can be phoned to the CIA operatives who are working with Lincoln.
Lincoln becomes suspicious seeing Changez texting, the latter saying he was just communicating with his sister, Bina (Meesha Shafi); suspicions turn to fury after Lincoln receives a picture of Rainer dead, and blames Changez and demands to see his phone. Lincoln holds Changez at gunpoint, using him as a shield as he ventures into the crowd of protesters. The crowd destabilizes and Lincoln falls to the ground, and accidentally shoots and kills Sameer (Imaad Shah), Changez's Brother. Another student fires at Lincoln from a balcony, wounding him, and Lincoln is quickly removed by CIA agents. Lincoln is told that Rainer was found dead that morning, and that Changez had been telling the truth and had rejected working with the suspected terrorist and had told the truth about the text message.
Changez delivers a eulogy at Sameer's funeral, as Lincoln recuperates in a hospital, recalling Changez's words as he listens to the recording of the interview – "Looks can be deceiving. I am a lover of America... although I was raised to feel very Pakistani."
- Riz Ahmed as Changez Khan
- Kate Hudson as Erica
- Liev Schreiber as Bobby Lincoln
- Kiefer Sutherland as Jim Cross
- Om Puri as Abu, Changez's father
- Shabana Azmi as Ammi, Changez's mother
- Meesha Shafi as Bina Khan, Changez's sister
- Martin Donovan as Ludlow Cooper, a CIA officer and investigator
- Adil Hussain as Mustafa Fazil, a Muslim Activist and Mujahid
- Imaad Shah as Sameer, an academic intern at Lahore University
- Chandrachur Singh as Bandy Uncle
- Ashwath Bhatt as Junaid
- Haluk Bilginer as Nazmi Kemal
- Nelsan Ellis as Wainwright
- Christopher Nicholas Smith as Mike Rizzo
- Victor Slezak as Underwood
- Clayton Landey as Agent Jackson
- Roy McCrerey as Agent Ford
- Mark Oliver as an Immigration Officer
- Steven Kulesza as Shredder No. 1
- Kevin Miller as Shredder No. 2
- Javed Basu-Kesselman as Pakistani James Bond
- Ankur Chatterjee as Pakistani Cab Driver No. 1
- Ritwik Chatterjee as Pakistani Cab Driver No. 2
- Sonya Jehan as Nadia
- Gary Richardson as an American professor
The soundtrack album for The Reluctant Fundamentalist was composed by Michael Andrews. On selecting Andrews, Nair said: "I called him up from Delhi. We didn't waste time and were very direct. I asked him how far east he had traveled and he said, 'San Diego!' And I just started laughing." He layered the film's score with traditional Pakistani songs.
The album has Urdu poetry set to music, Pakistani pop, funk and rap music, vocals from Amy Ray of the folk group Indigo Girls, and a new original song from Peter Gabriel, an old friend of Nair's. The film uses an eight-minute duet called "Kangna", sung by Fareed Ayaz and Abu Mohammed, for the opening scene. Songs based on the poems of Faiz Ahmed Faiz were used in the film and performed by Atif Aslam and Michael Andrews (English lyrics). Mira said: "His poems are put to music and we composed new versions of his poems. I went back to Pakistan and found Atif Aslam, the Kanye West of Pakistan, who is the nation's biggest pop star."
On composing music for the film, Andrews said: "She has great relationships with folks in the region, and because I was so far away, Mira took care of it. I sent her my music to be overdubbed with melodies represented and she actually recorded Bansuri flute, and also took care of the vocals on 'Mori Araj Suno'. Simultaneously, I added Alam Khan, Ali Akbar's son, and Salar Nadir. Then I put the tracks under the vocal and the orchestra under the mock-up and real Bansuri." This all took place over the Internet, through endless uploading and downloading. "Most of our discussions took place after Mira had worked a 16-hour day."
Andrews served as the primary composer for the music, but some of the songs and music were composed by others. Atif Aslam, Fareed Ayaz, Fahad Humayun, Abu Muhammad, and Amy Ray also served as singers and secondary composers on the album. Nair cast the popular Pakistani singer Meesha Shafi to play the role of Changez's sister, who sings "Bijli Aaye Ya Na Aaye".
The soundtrack was released on Amazon for digital download on 30 April 2013. Internationally, Knitting Factory has released the soundtrack album. In India, Universal Music Group India hold the rights to release the music. Both physical and digital formats of the album were released on 30 April 2013, exclusively on Universal Music.
IFC Films and Cathay-Keris Films co-financed The Reluctant Fundamentalist, with IFC Films handling the North American distribution and Cathay handling the international release. The film had its premieres at 69th Venice International Film Festival and at the 37th Toronto International Film Festival in late 2012. In Venice, Nair said she hoped the film reflected the fact that "the modern Pakistan is nothing like what you read in the papers" and that she hoped to bring "some sense of bridge-making, some sense of healing, basically a sense of communication that goes beyond the stereotype".
The film screened in festivals in the United States, Denmark, Venice, Toronto, London, Sweden, and Munich in early 2013. It was released in the United States on 26 April 2013, in India and Canada on 17 May 2013, and in the United Kingdom on 19 May 2013. In Pakistan, the film was released in Urdu as Changez on 24 May by Express Entertainment.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist earned $30,920 in its opening weekend in limited release in the United States, and went on to gross a total of $528,731. Its worldwide gross was $2,167,020. In India, the film was released in 300 theaters by PVR Limited and grossed $273,299. In its opening weekend in Sweden, the gross revenue was $12,286.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist received mixed reviews from critics. On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a score of 53% based on 92 reviews, including 49 positive and 43 negative, with the rating average of 6.1 out of 10. The website reported critical consensus as: "The Reluctant Fundamentalist is technically proficient with solid acting and cinematography" yet "its message is so ambitious and heavy-handed that some of its power is robbed."
J.R. Jones of Chicago Reader said, "This sure-handed adaptation of Mohsin Hamid's international best seller shows Nair at her best." Vaihayasi Pande Daniel for Rediff.com gave 3.5/5 stars and says "The Reluctant Fundamentalist has its cinematic moments but is too simplistic in places". At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 0–100 reviews from film critics, the film has ratings score of 54, based on 28 reviews, classified as a generally favorably reviewed film. Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian gave it 3/5 stars and commented, "Its message might be flabby, but Mira Nair's adaptation of Mohsin Hamid's novel is still a bold piece of global storytelling". Rummana Ahmed from Yahoo! Movies gave a score of 4/5 and said, "Mira Nair takes on the daunting task of adapting Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist and skillfully transforms a monologue into an engaging plot. She weaves an elaborate tale, infusing it with warmth and texture." Damon Wise of Empire Magazine rated the film as 3/5 and said, "Ahmed excels and the set-up is compelling but ultimately this is middle rank stuff from the Monsoon Wedding director". Mohar Basu of Koimoi also rated the film 3 out 5 and says: "What's Good: The film preserves the mood of Mohsin Hamid's book well. What's Bad: A jerky screenplay ruptures the film's flow multiple times all through. Watch or Not?: Mira Nair's repertoire glistening with gems like Namesake and Monsoon Wedding is enough to evoke interest. However, The Reluctant Fundamentalist is not even close to being among her best works. With issues left unexplored and characters abandoned abruptly, the film is a desirable watch only for the landmark performance of Riz Ahmed and the grace with which he builds his character."
For the academic reception of the adaptation of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, see Mendes and Bennett (2016) and Lau and Mendes (2018), who question "how the ambivalence and provocativeness of the 'source' text translates into the film adaptation, and the extent to which the film format makes the narrative more palatable and appealing to wider audiences as compared to the novel's target readership."
In 2013, Nair won The Bridge, the German Film Award for Peace, for The Reluctant Fundamentalist. The award is given to film artists whose work builds bridges and inspires tolerance and humanitarianism.
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