Title: – The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Director: – Mira Nair
Lead Actors:-Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson, Live Schreiber, Kiefer Sutherland, Om Puri
Genre: – Thriller, Action
Settings: – Lahore, Istanbul, New York
Plot Overview: –
Chasing success as a young Princeton graduate on Wall Street, Changez finds himself amidst a crisis after 9/11 shatters his reality drastically, ultimately leading to his return to his homeland, Pakistan. His popularity as a lecturer at a university results in him being suspected of involvement in a terrorist hostage situation. The film is based on Mohsin Hamid’s international best-selling novel also entitled The Reluctant Fundamentalist.
Opening with a harrowing scene of a brutal kidnapping to the live soundtrack of traditional Pakistani Qawalli, engages the audience at once. Beginning in Lahore, in an interview with an American journalist Bobby Lincoln (Liev Schreiber), Changez, a young, intellectual played by Riz Ahmed (Four Lions) charismatically reviews the series of events which ultimately lead to him being suspected of involvement in the hostage crisis.
Jim Cross (Kiefer Sutherland), who is captivated by the aspirational nature and hunger for success of Changez rapidly watches his young employee steadily climbing the career ladder, on his way to becoming an Associate. With a steady career and blossoming relationship with girlfriend Erica, (Kate Hudson) it’d seem Changez is living the American Dream.
As the events of 9/11 unfold, one of the most striking scenes is when young Changez watches in shock as his life is forever altered by the events, facing consequences beyond his control. Whilst this film deals with terrorism, it more accurately displays the reaction of terrorism and the negative impacts on the many individuals who suddenly found themselves in conflict with their ethnicities and nationalities. Whilst Changez, a Pakistani immigrant in New York describes himself as a ‘lover of America’, he progresses to voice his frustrations regarding the increasing alienation felt after the 9/11 attacks, when speaking to Lincoln with his loaded statement ‘You picked your side, mine was chosen for me.’
His experiences dramatically change from being accepted to suddenly being branded as the enemy – the other, who is constantly viewed with suspicion. Beginning to face wrongful arrests, being racially profiled and later humiliatingly strip searched and interrogated, his frustrations become increasingly apparent.
Changez’s return to his homeland, Lahore in Pakistan after having quit his job and losing his girlfriend through the personal struggles faced contributes to the growth of his character. With his loyalties divided, he becomes a university lecturer, eagerly engaging his students in searching for a ‘Pakistani Dream’ inspired by the over anticipated American Dream. His bold ideas consists of understanding and engaging in reforms which would aim to improve the standard of living for ordinary Pakistanis. This increasing popularity and radical ideas results in him being suspected of organising and executing the capture and ransom of a professor lecturing in the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Mohsin Hamid’s parallel to his character, Changez has been crucial in the character development in both the film and novel, through deriving from experiences of being raised in Pakistan along with developing a familiarity with the United States. He is also a Princeton educated intellectual and echo’s his experiences to engage the viewers with his accurate portrayals of the challenges that entails.
Riz Ahmed is able to translate this seamlessly, through his riveting performance. The smooth transition between scenes set in Lahore, New York, along with the use of the authentic language, Urdu throughout the movie helped to provide a realistic portrayal of his conflicting identities. The scenic shots of Pakistani culture on the streets of Lahore, along with the stunning shots of Istanbul contrasted to the stark reality of New York provide the viewer with visual aids of the contexts and settings. The movie moves at a steady pace, with plenty of character development introducing the viewers to the realities experienced by the many individuals who found themselves judged and alienated through public attitudes towards ethnic minorities after 9/11. The themes of identity, alienation, social acceptance, along with race and religion are no doubt many which run through the minds of many young adults today living the UK.