The Reluctant Fundamentalist – Movie Review


Directed by brilliant filmmaker Mira Nair, this movie is based on a novel by Mohsin Hamid, adapted for screen, by Ami Boghani , with screen play by William Wheeler.  Riz Ahmed’s performance is brilliant, in the role of Changez, a Pakistani-born, Wall Street financial analyst, who is living the American dream, before everything changes with the terrorist attacks, on 9/11.

English: Mira Nair at the 2008 IIFW Masterclas...

English: Mira Nair at the 2008 IIFW Masterclass Directors Meet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The way in which the word “fundamental” is used in the movie, is as complex as the human saga that unfolds, in the larger context of the events that occur around him.  Changez is living an American dream, a rising star in the meritocracy based system at Underwood Sampson firm, which instructs its employees to “focus on the fundamentals”, referring to laser sharp focus on assessing the assets’ value, through clear, data driven financial details.  Changez also has an American girl friend, played by Kate Hudson and he is dreaming of becoming a Managing Director, some day.

However, following 9/11, Changez is singled out, arrested, strip searched, and he begins to see holes in his American dream.  The very materialism that had enticed and captured his imagination, he finds lacking.  While visiting Pakistan, he is frequently at odds with his father (played by Om Puri) but his mother (played by Shabana Azmi) dotes on him, and he loves his sister (played by Meesha Shafi), who has her own American dreams.  Changez feels, he can no longer be a part of the “establishment”, and he quits it all, and moves back to Pakistan.  Is he becoming a reluctant “fundamentalist”?   Changez tells his story to an American, Bobby Lincoln, played by Liev Schreiber, who has gone to Pakistan, in search of his recently kidnapped friend.

Before Changez attempts to help him with crucial information that could lead Bobby to his friend, Changez wants Bobby to hear his whole story.  He says, when he watched the events of 9/11, for a split second, a small part of him, felt in awe of the genius with which the events were orchestrated.  He adds, after he moved back, he told his students at the university where he teaches, that he just quit his American dream, in favor of Pakistani dream and then asked them, “what is Pakistani dream”?  He also says, he had an epiphany, that in life one must adhere to certain “fundamental truths”.

What are those fundamental truths?  Are they different for different people, standing on different sides of an issue?  In telling his story, Chanez says, he did not even have an opportunity to pick sides, his side was picked for him.  Is that possible or do we always have a choice?  And what about prematurely exercising the choice, before we learn complete details?   Did Bobby listen to the whole story?  The story of 9/11 has been told often.  But there is little that could change with each account.  The events unfolded with precision and majority of the people, on both sides of the ocean, would agree that it was an evil deed.  But how do these geo political events impact each individual, at deeply personal, intimate level?  There can be as many stories, as people who experienced that time in history.  And Mira Nair has done a fabulous job in telling one such deeply personal tale of how the events affected Changez and Bobby, both struggling in their own way, to strive for the greater good.  I rate the movie 4.7 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent.

American flag

American flag (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pakistan flag

Pakistan flag (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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