The reluctant 
fundamentalist (15) Heart of Hawick

editorial image

Pakistan may be portrayed by the Western media as a hotbed of fundamentalist activity, where law and order has been crippled by corruption, and America, its foremost benefactor, is universally loathed.

The facts are infinitely more complex and interesting. Mira Nair, who was born in Lahore, has co-written and directed a film that covers the bases without blocking understanding in the usual manner – bigotry and prejudice.

Her story, based on Mohsin Hamid’s Booker shortlisted novel, concerns Changez Khan (extraordinary performance from Riz Ahmed), an intelligent, ambitious young man who goes to America to make his fortune, is accepted into a reputable Wall Street firm and begins a relationship with an emotionally damaged photographer (Kate Hudson). And then comes 9/11 and everything changes, for him and for Muslims everywhere, especially in Dubya’s back yard.

The film is told in a series of flashbacks, snapshots of memories, non-judgemental and politically motivated. At the start an American academic has been kidnapped and a journalist (Liv Schreiber) is interviewing Changez, now a professor of revolutionary studies, in the Pak Tea House, Lahore, while a riot is brewing in the streets and the CIA are itching to move in.

What this demonstrates, as much as anything, is that murder begets murder, violence breeds violence and religious disciplines are usefully employed in training freedom fighters (terrorists).

Changez, the capitalist golden boy, becomes the spokesman for disaffected youth back home. His journey is dangerous, believable and sympathetic.

Take it.