Review of The Reluctant Fundamentalist: A sane take on an explosive topic

English (U/A) ***1/2
Director: Mira Nair
Cast: Riz Ahmed, Kate  Hudson, Om Puri, Liev Schreiber, Kiefer Sutherland

In these times of ‘perception management’ by just about anyone who is in a position to influence a cross-section of minds comes a refreshing take on a highly volatile global issue — Islamophobia or prejudice against Muslims and the Muslim world.

Mira Nair who has hitherto confined her range of work to discovering human relationships at a very intimate, microcosmic level, expands her craft to now explore an internationally explosive subject which is dividing the civilised world.

Based on the best-selling 2007 novel by Mohsin Hamid The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a balanced, controlled work by Nair (her best so far) which surpasses her previous outings with cinema as it tails the story of a young Pakistani Changez Khan (Riz Ahmed) in the US who nurses of making it big in the corporate world but finds himself caught between personal ambitions and duty to homeland.

At the bottom of Changez’s conflict lies a genuine desire to do justice to both the worlds he inhabits.  The film differs from the book in as much as that it gives a voice and face to Changez’s opponent Bobby (Liev Schreiber as the journalist sent in to resolve the hostage crisis) who makes an equally valid case for the stance taken up by the anti-Islamic proponents.

As audience, one is wont to be swayed by either since both have valid arguments. But it is the film which wins in the end and not the arguments. 

If Riz’s performance can be called composed and poignant, that of Kate Hudson (playing his American girlfriend Erica) can be safely termed as subtle with a touch of sentiment and poise. Kiefer Sutherland (Jim Cross) as Riz’s boss is a perfect foil to his protégé, while Schreiber puts a powerful performance as the voice of reason.
Shimit Amin, of Chak De! India fame plays editor here, lending a raw edginess to the entire film, while simultaneously complementing the intimate, warm tones of the camera work by Declan Quinn, Nair’s favourite cinematographer.

Spare time for this one, if you truly want to give sanity a chance, in the fast turning topsy-turvy world of us vs them.

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