The Reluctant Fundamentalist has been my most difficult project: Mira Nair

Published: July 28, 2012

Nair said financiers were reluctant to give money to the project. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

Nair said financiers were reluctant to give money to the project. PHOTO: PUBLICITY Nair said financiers were reluctant to give money to the project. PHOTO: PUBLICITY
KARACHI: 

With an endeavour to reach out to her Pakistani following, renowned Indian director Mira Nair conducted a Skype session from Uganda on Wednesday, with the help of the South Asian Academy of Picture Arts and Television (SAAMPT).

Since her upcoming venture,The Reluctant Fundamentalist, is based on Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid’s book, Nair reached out to her audience and shared stories of her journey from documentaries to films and spoke about the film that has been one of her biggest challenges yet.

“My father was originally from Lahore so for us to listen to him speaking in Urdu was a norm,” Nair told a spellbound audience. “We would listen to ghazals by poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz and singer Begum Akhter, which were quite inspirational.” Talking about the upcoming film Nair said, “Somebody should really call Mohsin Hamid’s book ‘a human thriller’.”

She then spoke about the project in detail. “I have made films before but this one has been my most difficult project so far — it took me five years to complete!” she said, adding that it has never taken her more than two years to make a film. “The challenge came in the form of adaptation, as a book is a monologue and a film is a totally different medium. Finding the right man to play the lead role that Riz Ahmed plays was a difficult task — around 200 young men approached us for the role.”

Nair said that since the film has a political tinge, getting money for the project was not easy. “There were financiers who literally ran away before signing the contract,” she said. “We had no money and had to strip down the budget, but in no way were we giving up on the global appetite. It’s been shot in five countries and the music comes from Lahore — it was a lot of work and we worked round the clock. But it happens to be my best project so far.”

Despite the high monetary investment and low returns, Nair said she is content. “I believe I am poor but free and it is the greatest feeling to be with.”

While the film will be released at the Venice Film Festival in August, Nair announced that she plans on bringing it to Pakistan by December.

Getting to know Nair

Born in India, 55-year-old Nair spent most of her life in the United States and is currently based in Kampala, Uganda. While she said that she had always felt like “an outsider in the world she lives in”, she explained that this feeling of estrangement began to fade a few years ago. “I have always kept going with what I wanted to do. Being based in Kampala for quite some time now, my life is divided in three different continents but through this life, I get to see the larger version and bigger picture,” she said.

The first question that was asked by a member of the audience was about her switch from making documentaries to films based on fiction. Nair said that it was the truth in the personalities of these fictitious characters that inspired her. “They reveal the life that they have lived and I was largely influenced by that. It generated a hope to capture the unexpected.”

“I have always done my own thing,” she said, adding that she has a rebellious attitude towards authority. “Film gives you a great canvas to work on.”

When asked how she has managed to make such strong films with low budgets, Nair simply said that one has to be crazy, passionate and disciplined to pull it off. “As a young film-maker, I used to work other jobs as well in order to survive,” she said. “You need to shun the materialistic ways of life.  Training of the head and heart give you a platform to live by.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2012.

Reader Comments (19)

  • MK
    Jul 28, 2012 - 9:32PM

    yaay! looking forward to this!

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  • Jul 28, 2012 - 9:43PM

    Anxiously looking forward to watch the movie! Wishing you all the best.

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  • kaalchakra
    Jul 28, 2012 - 9:53PM

    Mrs Mamdani has done yeoman’s service to Islam, and is an inspiration to all women. The world must know that not all Muslims are terrorists and even the Muslim fundamentalists are actually reluctant. Shame on right-wing fanatical Hindus harassed her when she tried to expose evil Hindu practices related to widows. Dear sister, please continue your brave work defending truth and justice.

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  • entropy
    Jul 28, 2012 - 10:15PM

    mira nair

    “My father was originally from Lahore
    so for us to listen to him speaking in
    Urdu was a norm,”

    The ‘norm’ in Lahore even today is to speak in Punjabi.

    Recommend

  • 1984
    Jul 29, 2012 - 12:20AM

    Shame on right-wing fanatical Hindus harassed her when she tried to expose evil Hindu practices related to widows. Dear sister, please continue your brave work defending truth and justice.

    I hope Theo Van Gogh would be proud of you

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  • Akshay
    Jul 29, 2012 - 12:46AM

    @kaalchakra: What is your problem with Hindus? I think Mira Nair herself is Hindu.

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  • Truth bites
    Jul 29, 2012 - 1:07AM

    No wonder she found it difficult to convince financiers as there is no plot in the novel.
    I haven’t met any so called fundamentalist of the type mentioned in the book therefore must be very challenging for her to make a story out of ot.
    “moth smoke” would had been a better choice.

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  • tanveer
    Jul 29, 2012 - 1:40AM

    @kaalchakra: i think you are confusing her with Deepa Mehta- Mehta was making the film on widows?!Recommend

  • anonymus
    Jul 29, 2012 - 1:55AM

    @Akshay:
    Sir
    Don’t get upset with him.
    If you want to think of any idea, and you have a question, how a Pakistani fundamentalist will think? He is true representative.Person with closed mind, like a robot, thinks like him . Take him lightly.
    Kirshan chander a famous urdu writer wrote in his novel Ghadar( traitor) ” Believe snake, baby snake but don’t believe hindu or muslim( depending upon who are you)” was narrative after partition.
    There are many simple minded people on this side of divide,who still believe idiots, who tell them that soon they will foist Pakistan flag on red fort and change India into size of Srilanka
    Cheer up, these people have given you a lot of victories to celebrate, other wise you would have been living with memories of war with China.

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  • sundar
    Jul 29, 2012 - 2:42AM

    @kaalchakra:
    ‘Nair’ is a Hindu surname but Mira is married to Mamdani a muslim. I do not know anything her ‘yeoman’s service to Islam’. Anyway does her faith matters? You have no clue who made the film that narrated the past practices that became controversial. Broaden your vision, take off the narrow religious glass and see the world in its true form. Recommend

  • kaalchakra
    Jul 29, 2012 - 4:50AM

    tanveer

    Mira, Deepa, Radha – aren’t they all pretty much the same?

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  • sana
    Jul 29, 2012 - 5:30AM

    She is best person to make this type of movie, her hindu name has given her most sought liberal cover for western audience and her marriage to Professor Mahmood Mamdani has provided opportunity to express what every muslim want to points out about” religion of peace”

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  • S
    Jul 29, 2012 - 6:06AM

    Muslim fundamentalists are not reluctant, far from it, they draw inspiration right from the pages of Islam.

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  • Abbas, John
    Jul 29, 2012 - 8:29AM

    @kaalchakra:
    there should be UN limits of IQ levels permissible to write comments.

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  • Somesh
    Jul 29, 2012 - 8:51AM

    @kaalchakra:
    Mrs Mamdani has done yeoman’s service to Islam, and is an inspiration to all women.
    The discussion happening is about a movie about a fundamentalist and not ‘Islam’ per say. It only happens to take a ‘Islamic’ tinge because the original author is a Pakistani… So, it is actually is a service to ‘humanity’. Please come out of the corset….
    Shame on right-wing fanatical Hindus harassed her when she tried to expose evil Hindu practices related to widows.
    And in the same tone shame on the extremist Muslims who harass their women for only exposing their face…Recommend

  • Jul 29, 2012 - 4:13PM

    I seriously believe this would turn out to be her best project.. also hearing the reports that Atif and Rahat have sung songs in it.. so overall, it’s going to be a blast with Mohsin Hamid’s novel being the film base..

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  • Zafi M
    Jul 29, 2012 - 7:51PM

    It is amazing how any subject is instantly twisted into a religious flame thrower!Come on people can we call a truce & enjoy stories without trying to interpret it through a religios lens?

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  • sid
    Jul 30, 2012 - 1:55AM

    @kaalchakra:
    i have been reading u r comments………..people like u are a curse to humanity…….whichever God u follow will not spare u for spreading hatred

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  • Ali tanoli
    Jul 30, 2012 - 3:52AM

    I love her movie Salam Bombay the best … thank u Mrs Nair.

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