Review: The Reluctant Fundamentalist
I went along to @DerbyQUAD to watch two movies however I’m going to only review one of them. Which one have I chosen? There are no mystery people; the clue is in the title of the review… Basically the film starts in 2011 in Lahore Pakistan where we are introduced to the main character in The Reluctant Fundamentalist, a Pakistani man named Changez whose name translated means Genghis, (played by the Four Lions actor Riz Ahmed). Changez is a bearded pro-Islamic intellectual and the atmosphere in the café is best described as intense due to the fact that it is frequented by Islamic student activists. The man that Changez is talking to is Bobby (Liev Schreiber), a Jewish -American journalist with an understanding of the complexities of the nation of Pakistan.
Bobby’s real mission is to discover whether Changez was involved in the abduction of an American visiting professor at the local university. The film then goes back a decade, and we meet a younger Changez straight out of Princeton, aiming for money and power on Wall Street. The American (Asian) dream seems well within his grasp, complete with an intelligent and artistic girlfriend, Erica (Kate Hudson).
All is good in the hood for our hero until events beyond his control (i.e.) the Twin Towers being demolished (and then blamed on the Muslims), a cultural divide slowly begins to crack open between Changez and Erica. Changez’s dream soon begins to slip into a nightmare because (for those with short memories or being too young to remember) Asian men since 2001 have on a global tip become Public Enemy No.1 and Changez fitting this profile (i.e. being a Muslim male) is subjected to all manner of injustices such as being wrongfully arrested, strip-searched and interrogated, he is transformed from a well-educated, upwardly mobile businessman to a scapegoat and perceived enemy of the state.
While watching The Reluctant Fundamentalist and seeing the job that Changez was employed to do which was roughly designing a strategy to make cutbacks to a business which would then create maximum profits for the owner of the business but to the detriment of the workers which roughly speaking is what we called Thatcherism (UK) or Reaganomics (USA).
While teaching the students, Changez asks the question “what is the Pakistani dream that doesn’t mean moving to USA?” This question intrigues me and reminded me of the Pathé news reels of the 40s and 50s which were sent to the Caribbean and the Indian sub-continent where the indigenous population of these proud countries were encouraged to come over to the motherland (UK) and offer up their skills to the country that had a history of enslaving them and their people, however the show reel was far more subtly put together and asked the viewer to leave all behind and Help Mummy Dearest.
Also take into consideration that the countries of the Commonwealth who allowed their most talented to Help Mummy Dearest soon suffered a brain drain to which over 60 years later have not recovered. Take Jamaica for instance, it has been an independent nation since 1952 and has a population of 2.9m people and a debt since ’52 of $1.7bn. How??? What have they spent it on, Gold teeth? Satellite dishes? Buying then turning into a bonfire US Dollars?
The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a film version of the novel called Focus on the Fundamentals that was written by Mohsin Hamid and was published in 2007. Another big difference between the film and book is that the events in the book take place in a single evening in an outdoor Lahore cafe, where a bearded Pakistani man called Changez tells a nervous American stranger about his love affair with an American woman, and his eventual abandonment of America. A short story adapted from the novel called Focus on the Fundamentals appeared in the fall 2006 issue of The Paris Review. The author of the novel Mohsin Hamid stated that he originally started writing before September 11th 2001 and waited until a sufficient period of time had passed before releasing the book.
Mohsin also states that this book isn’t anti-America rather it is anti a certain way of thinking. An interesting film and an interesting and thought provoking novel. Catch the film at @DerbyQUAD however if you can’t get here then get the DVD from an outlet near you (check press for details as the adverts from back in the day used to say)… Author Mohsin Hamid says his second novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist took seven years to allow time and distance from the demolition of the Twin Towers