Film: The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Cast: Kate Hudson, Riz Ahmed, Kiefer Sutherland, Liev Schreiber, Om Puri, Shabana Azmi
Director: Mira Nair
His name is Khan and he is not a terrorist. 9/11 and its follow up has often been fodder for film makers who have used the tragedy as a backdrop or taken real life incidents to tell stories.
Mira Nair does both in her on screen adaptation of Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid’s book of the same name. The story begins as a narrative where Changez Khan (Riz Ahmed) is sitting in a student café taking American journalist Bobby (Liev Schreiber) through the incidents leading to their encounter. All this is happening at a time when a US professor has been kidnapped by Islamic fundamentalists and held for ransom.
Through flashbacks we get to see his journey from being a poet’s (Om Puri) son to graduating from Princeton and going on to work in a reputed financial firm. The events of 9/11 leave a lasting impression on Khan making him question his own beliefs.
Nair also brings in supporting characters like his photographer girlfriend (Kate Hudson) and his boss Jim Cross (Kiefer Sutherland) who play a crucial part in evolving his ideology.
Despite the serious tone of the film, its length and the sketchy characters mar the end result from being anything but ordinary. The Reluctant Fundamentalist feels like a package delivered a little too late in the day.
Not only have other film makers explored every possible angle and milked out all the possible conspiracy theories surrounding the incident, but the US versus the Muslim world debate seems too forced and rehashed. Fortunately that doesn't stop the cast from delivering the goods.
Riz Ahmed stands out as a winner with his portrayal of Changez. His body language and those hawk eyes that breathe love and hate at the same time stay with you even after the end credits. He deserved better material to showcase his talent, but given the limitations of the script he manages to score big time.
Both Schreiber and Sutherland already established names in their field offer solid support to the ensemble. Kate Hudson's brunette look compliments her ability to blend into the story line with ease and give a stripped down performance.
Nair’s background score and soundtrack are haunting and the camera work is exceptional as well. The climax looks rushed, and the ending monologue gets too preachy.
Eventually, The Reluctant Fundamentalist ends up being yet another 9/11 inspired tale with all the expected ingredients, but we wish the film maker had engaged and challenged us a lot more like her previous efforts (The Namesake, Mississippi Masala and Salaam Bombay).