Looking back

Last Updated: Fri, Dec 07, 2012 21:02 hrs

pMira Nair&rsquos film on a Pakistani&rsquos disenchantment with the US after 911 leaves emJ Jagannathem impressedppMartin Amis once said that an artist should let at least 10 years pass before dealing with a cataclysmic event Hindsight and introspection put things in better perspective Mira Nair seems to have picked up this dictum as her screen adaptation of Mohsin Hamid&rsquos emThe Reluctant Fundamentalistem releases 11 years after the towers crumbled on the fateful day of September 11 2001ppThe two best novels on life post-911 are arguably Joseph O&rsquoNeill&rsquos emNetherlandem and Hamid&rsquos novel Nair has meatily distilled the latter into a movie with help from the writer himself The film opens in present-day Lahore where an American an English professor at Lahore University is kidnapped by extremists The officials believe Changez Khan a charming Riz Ahmed a professor and alleged sympathiser of the kidnappers might be involved Around this time Changez also agrees to an interview with an American journalist Bobby a functional Liev Schreiber for a piece on the &ldquomilitant academia&rdquo of Pakistan Readers of Hamid&rsquos novel will remember that Changez talks about his corporate exploits in New York with a random stranger &mdash Schreiber is that stranger hereppFresh out of Princeton Changez lands a plum financial-analyst position at Underwood Samson a consultancy firm and rises under the tutelage of his bare-knuckled boss Jim a ruthlessly brilliant Kiefer Sutherland However the post-911 paranoia leads to a few ridiculously humiliating situations for Changez that trigger a sea change in his reverential attitude towards America His mostly on-off relationship with Erica a somnolent Kate Hudson who is not yet over her deceased boyfriend does not help eitherppThere&rsquos not much wrong Nair could do with a source as compelling as Hamid&rsquos novel In fact some of the liberties that she takes with the novel&rsquos plot are the movie&rsquos weakest links the climax the missing out of major events major alterations of secondary character&rsquo lives etc That said this is probably her best film after emMonsoon Weddingem and emMississippi MasalaemppYes plot-wise the movie moves on steroids as compared to the novel&rsquos organic self But then the canvas of the movie is bigger Nair must be commended on her non-judgmental take on 911 She doesn&rsquot paint either party in broad strokes In one of the movie&rsquos many standout scenes the confrontation between Schreiber and Riz Ahmed literally crackles the screenppNair had tackled the Islamophobia that followed 911 in a short film for a collection of movies titled 11&rsquo09&rsquo&rsquo01 In a way emThe Reluctant Fundamentalistem is her full-length dip into the subject For starters her casting is impeccable Riz Ahmed ends the year on a high note after his incredible performance in emIll Manorsem After his previous turn as a gloriously bonkers Muslim in emFour Lionsem Ahmed carries his pain as a Muslim very ably here As the wet-behind-the-ears corporate guy he goes overboard but is in his elements in the movie&rsquos darker phaseppHis near four-minute monologue at Kate Hudson&rsquos art opening screams &ldquobreakout performance&rdquo Of course there&rsquos something pat about how Changez discovers his &ldquotrue&rdquo identity but even that is handled cliché-free by Nair who owes a huge credit to the photography of Declan Quinn His camera is unfussy but could not have better captured the essence of Lahore Shimit Amin&rsquos deft editing too deserves mentionppThat brings us to the all-important question is the movie better than the book Speaking at this year&rsquos Jaipur Literature Festival the writer Lionel Shriver had said that Lynne Ramsay&rsquos film version of her emWe Need To Talk About Kevinem is an &ldquoelaborate trailer of the book&rdquo Nair&rsquos largely superb occasionally muted movie too is a trailer for Hamid&rsquos book For all its many virtues Nair tries to cram in too many themes&mdash paranoia xenophobia war philosophy and unnecessary political jokes&mdash which leave the secondary characters barely any breathing space It&rsquos a testament to Om Puri&rsquos experience as an actor that he manages to shine throughppNair has a genuine winner on her handsp

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