Books that are made into films end up fascinating readers and film enthusiasts alike. For the readers, it is a matter of finding out whether the key characters live up to their own visualisation of the roles and the intrigue surrounding the casting of characters. For film-lovers, it gives a chance to go back to the book and relive the experience in words.
When it was revealed that Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid’s best-selling fictional novel “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” was being made into a feature-length film, it brought a great deal of excitement – not just to the readers but also film enthusiasts as the entire project was had been undertaken in the form of a cross-border collaborative effort. The film “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” is based on Hamid’s novel, which was published in 2007 and became an international bestseller with over a million copies in print. Renowned Indian director Mira Nair is behind the film, which will have the honour of opening the 69th Venice International Film Festival (29 August – 8 September, 2012).Riz Ahmed as Changez in a scene from the film – Photo courtesy Mirabai Films
“The Reluctant Fundamentalist” boasts an all-star cast, including Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson, Kiefer Sutherland, Liev Schreiber, Martin Donovan, Om Puri, Shabana Azmi, Haluk Bilginer and Meesha Shafi. It tells the story of a young Pakistani man, who is chasing success on the Wall Street and ultimately finds himself embroiled in a conflict between his American Dream, a hostage crisis, and the enduring call of his family’s homeland.
Dawn.com met with Hamid to learn about the film project, the transition and the experience of working on a large-scale unit as compared to simply penning his thoughts on paper.
Dawn.com: When you were first approached for the project of making “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” into film, what was your reaction to it? Mohsin Hamid: I was excited. And a little nervous. I liked the idea of a movie adaptation, but at the same time it felt strange handing over my book to someone else. A number of directors had approached me. In the end I picked Mira Nair because I respected her and because when I met her I thought she was someone I could trust.
Dawn.com: Could you visualise your narrative in a cinematographic venture? Mohsin Hamid: Not completely. It was easier for me to see it as a one-man play, with Changez alone on a stage. Parts of the novel seemed easy to film, but the frame, the dramatic monologue, less so.
Dawn.com: Was it hard to readjust the novel when it came to writing the screen-play? Mohsin Hamid: Very hard. I didn’t want to do it. I thought it would be best to stick to writing novels and leave the film to Mira. But after two years, Mira couldn’t find anyone she thought could do the screenplay. Some people could write Wall Street but not Pakistan, others could get the desi context but not the corporate one. So she asked me to get involved. I wound up working closely with her and two other writers.The cast and crew of "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" with author Mohsin Hamid – Photo courtesy Mirabai Films
Dawn.com: How different was it in collaborating with a screenplay writer? Mohsin Hamid: Completely different. But mostly I enjoyed it. Once I let go of control I was fine, because in a film it’s the director, not the screenwriter or the novelist, who gets to shape the final vision.