Her debut film Salaam Bombay was nominated for the Academy Awards. And what followed then was a streak of success. Counted among the best directors in the world, Mira Nair is definitely every filmmaker’s dream. Be it Vanity Fair, Monsoon Wedding, Hysterical Blindness or The Namesake, her movies have always stood for what she believed in -- human beings and emotions. Perhaps, also the reason why the director rejected an offer to direct the fifth Harry Potter movie as it had more to do with special effects.
Currently busy with reviews and promotions of her latest film, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Nair took out time from her packed schedule to talk City Express about the many nuances of this particular creation.
While the book 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist' by Mohsin Hamid is clearly an inspiration, Mira says there's more to it.
"My first inspiration to make this film came from my first visit to Lahore. It was a very moving experience. The cultural expression was all new and we have never seen this contemporary side of the country. My father comes from Lahore and he was raised there. When I visited Lahore a few years ago, it just felt so familiar, one side of Pakistan which we never read about or see. And then one-and-a-half-years later, I read the book The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin and wanted to show this modern take of Pakistan and spur a dialogue between this part of the world and the other part. And hence, we developed the script."
The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a political thriller film, based on the novel by the same name. The film is about a young Pakistani man, chasing his corporate success on Wall Street. He finds himself embroiled in a conflict between his American Dream, a hostage crisis and the enduring call of his family’s homeland. The film stars Kiefer Sutherland, Kate Hudson, Meesha Shafi, Liev Schreiber, Riz Ahmed, Om Puri and Shabana Azmi.
While a book relies on the reader's imagination, in a film, the audience relies on the director's. In bringing onto reel the text, Mira says it was a delicate juxtaposition of events and some handy camera work.
"To make the movie come along from just using a conversation between two men at a tea house in Lahore as the spine of the film is definitely challenging. And that is the joy of challenges. The global ambition of the film is to go around and not let people know where it is set. It was like walking on a tightrope. The camera was never set on a tripod. It was either suspended on a rubber tube or a cable or something else. The camera was always alive, which gave the film the much needed momentum."
The ugly reminder
Having been associated with India, Pakistan and the US, Mira is deeply associated to each of these places and the events that make them what they are. A resident of New York for a while now, the director is saddened by the recent Boston Marathon bombings. Tagging it as an ‘ugly reminder’ of the 9/11 incident, she says they definitely affect one’s lives. “We are defined not only by the events. I think, be it the Boston incident or 9/11, both the events have led to a series of battles and destruction. The Boston incident is very unfortunate and is an ugly reminder of the loss. Unless and until we stop using the act of violence, the situation will not change. The film is trying to show how lives of people were affected post 9/11.”
The background score in Nira's movies are also something she likes to personally involve herself with. "Music is a huge part of me. It kept me going through my financial crunch. Every time I was low, I would listen to the music and it withheld that motivation in me. We have a lot of Sufi music and songs like 'Mori araj suno' and the modern sound of Pakistan is incredible. Music crosses borders and this film is portraying the same. We have Atif Aslam, Misha and many other singers, who have sung some very beautiful numbers. And on the other side, we have Micheal Andrews, who is a very interesting musician. Since, I wanted the authentic American heart beat in the movie as well, he was the perfect fit.”
The Indian screen
The director says she is all geared up to head to India for the screening of the film. “I am very excited about bringing the movie home. The film is very universal and people will lookout for it. Besides, an Indian director is making a film on Pakistan.”
The Reluctant Fundamentalist releases May 17