The Reluctant Fundamentalist Movie Poster
The Reluctant Fundamentalist Movie Poster

Rating: 3/5 stars (Three Stars)

Star cast: Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson, Kiefer Sutherland, Liev Schreiber, Om Puri, Shabana Azmi, Imaad Shah, Chandrachud Singh, Meesha Shafi, Haluk Bilginer

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.

Loo break: None

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.

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Opening to a typical night in Lahore, the film hits off with two people returning after watching Shoaib Mansoor’s commercial wonder Bol. An American Professor gets kidnapped and the onus of fault falls on Changez Khan, another professor at Lahore University. Surmised as an atom of Pakistan’s booming militant academia, the CIA employs international journalist Bobby Lincoln to find the missing professor’s location. In matter of that one interview, the story that educes is challenging and enticing, perhaps one of Modern Pakistan’s most pertinent and relevant chronicles.

Om Puri And Shabana Azmi in The Reluctant Fundamentalist Movie Stills
Om Puri And Shabana Azmi in The Reluctant Fundamentalist Movie Stills

The Reluctant Fundamentalist Review: Script Analysis

The film’s original script that draws from Pakistani Author Mohsin Hamid’s book of the same name, which won itself a Booker Nomination in 2007, is one of the most stirring concepts of recent years. However Mira Nair’s choice to make the film couldn’t have come at more misplaced moment with the idea of jingoism and its repercussions fast getting depleted into mediocrity. The film’s prime protagonist grew up among royals, that in modern day Pakistan is facing a stiff beating from consumerism. Weaving himself an optimistic dream of achieving what his parents are losing out in Lahore, the Princeton graduate acquires himself a cushy job. From the very beginning, the film derives the ideas of immigrant identity and their natural love for American optimism impeccably. Starkly distinguishing between the economic progress of Manhattan high-rises and the grime of Lahore’s dusty by lanes, the film’s constant shuffling harps on this difference wittedly.

Instilling the quintessential American optimism in himself, our hero is earning laurels at work life. The film’s first part finely works on the clashes between religion and consumerism, but at the wake of film’s second half, post the grazing down of Twin Towers, the humiliating racial profiling and the eventual ‘demise’ of the American Changez, has too many pitfalls. The growing disillusionment of the man, who is facing the brunt for nothing, having a hard time at love is justified, yet the ease with which he gives up all is not well etched out. A Turkish media Baron handing out a collection of his father’s poems doesn’t qualify as ample reason for the man to revert back on his native vein. The reason in the end seems too understated.

Mohsin Hamid who delicately delved into the fate of Changez over many 224 pages, could not have its climax translated so crisply in Mira Nair’s cinematic adaptation of the same! By the time the end credits scroll down, there is a plethora of unanswered questions left afloat, the most clamorous one being why Changez is a reluctant fundamentalist!

The Reluctant Fundamentalist Review: Star Performances

Riz Ahmed is undoubtedly compelling. His impulsive acting stands out as the film’s most extraordinary plane. In his conversations with Liev Schreiber there is sheer on screen prowess expressed most inexplicably. Liev, on the other hand, with his excellent Urdu twang builds the film’s pace and thrill scrupulously.

Kate Hudson as the traumatized woman trying to fall in love again captures the screen space beautifully without giving a single letdown moment.

Actors Om Puri and Shabana Azmi are ace in their brilliant pieces.

Turkish theatre personality Haluk Bilginer deserves a special mention too. Sipping his native coffee, smoking a cigarette the man in 10 minutes delivers the most haunting performance as a fallen media baron who had once reigned the publishing industry in the region. His face off with Changez is one of the film’s most crucially altering minutes well dispatched.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist Review: Direction, Music and Editing

Mira Nair remains one of the century’s most formidable faces in film making. Yet, this time she botches up Hamid’s simple story. Working on too many layers, the film’s end product is a mucked up variation of what Hamid had tried to portray. The screenplay has omitted the story’s most challenging subtleties from the scenario all together. Yet, cinematically speaking, the film’s cinematography claims a well earned mention. On the editing front Shimit Amin fails to impart lucidity to the narrative. The screenwriters have done the valiant job of paraphrasing a risky script, but sadly it still crashes at quite a few places.

The film’s canorous music is sublime. From the Qawalli where the film begins, to each of the pieces that follow, the melody resonates within you for long.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist Review: The Last Word

Mira Nair’s interpretation of Mohsin Hamid’s novel is an inhibited work trying to be politically correct while dealing with inflammable issues. Sheathing too many subtle emotions that the book had elucidated well, the film doesn’t go beyond being average. Adding no fresh segment to similar films from the past, it settles for being a mere retelling of the horrors of 9/11 and its influence on Pakistani immigrants giving the larger motive of the story a miss! I am going with a benevolent 3/5 for Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Definitely thought provoking and tempting, it is suggested that you venture into it with minimal expectations.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist Trailer

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The Reluctant Fundamentalist will release on 17th April, 2013.

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