Magazine article Screen International

Mira Nair Talks the Reluctant Fundamentalist

Magazine article Screen International

Mira Nair Talks the Reluctant Fundamentalist

Article excerpt

The filmmaker tells Screen about the pressure of opening Venice, wanting to tell a story of contemporary Pakistan and America, and preparing Riz Ahmed (and his beard).

After coming to Venice with films like Monsoon Wedding, which won the Golden Lion in 2001, Mira Nair returns to the Lido with her latest film The Reluctant Fundamentalist as the opening night gala.

The film is adapted from Mohsin Hamid's Booker-shortlisted 2007 novel about a Pakistani man named Changez (played by Riz Ahmed) who was a rising star on Wall Street but becomes disenchanted with the American dream. The cast also features Kiefer Sutherland, Kate Hudson, Liev Schreiber and Om Puri.

India-born, New York-based Nair says she was drawn to the story's cross-cultural elements, presenting a "genuine dialogue" between east and west, but she also calls The Reluctant Fundamentalist "pure edge-of-your-seat entertainment." It is her first thriller.

The film shot in Delhi, Lahore, Istanbul, New York and Atlanta.

K5 handles international sales with Cinetic handling North American rights. The film was produced by Nair's longtime producer Lydia Dean Pilcher (alongside Anadil Hossain and Ami Boghani), and financing came from the Doha Film Institute.

Last week ahead of Venice, she was busy in Mumbai shooting a segment for Guillermo Arriaga's Words With Gods omnibus project.

After Venice, The Reluctant Fundamentalist travels to Toronto.

Do you feel extra pressure with this film opening Venice?

It was such a great honour and surprise to be asked to open the festival. It has been an avalanche ever since - there are the normal things to do before a world release, notes and stills and all that stuff, but in addition because we are opening Venice, there is extra attention before anyone has even seen it. It's kind of wonderful.

Why did you love this book and want to adapt it into a film?

I was raised in India by a father who came from Pakistan, who grew up in Lahore before the Partition of India. I was raised almost Lahori without realizing it, in the sense of the poetry, the music, the language. It was only about six years ago when I was invited to Pakistan, and it's not often that an Indian gets to go across the border. When I went there, it was a deeply moving experience. There was such hospitality and embrace, by absolute strangers. …

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