The film “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” has been the elusive siren of my life for a year or so now. Despite being released in 2012, I’ve either been hanging out in the wrong cities or didn’t notice when it came to my local theatre, because it wasn’t until recently that I finally had a chance to see it.
I am a professed Mohsin Hamid fan and fell in love with his best-selling novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist – upon which the film is directly based. Like any avid fan, I was eager to see how this wonderful book would translate onto the big screen and when the Singapore Writers Festival offered the opportunity to not only see the film but to chat with Mohsin Hamid himself, it felt as if there was truly a reason for why the film had seemed to avoid my excited eyes for so long.
So did “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” live up to my high expectations? It’s difficult to say. It was a star-studded cast with Kate Hudson, Liev Schreiber, and Kiefer Sutherland all taking big roles in the film and young up-and-coming actor Riz Ahmed doing an incredible job of carrying the lead role of Changez. But, as usually happens when novels make that transition to film, there were several mishaps along the way.
The first and most glaring to me was the act of casting actress Kate Hudson in the role of Erica. This was my biggest disappointment when it came to the movie version; don’t get me wrong, I like Kate Hudson and think she is a good actress, but she appeared terribly out of place as this particular character. Not only was the vivid age difference too apparent to make it comfortable to watch the relationship between Changez and Erica develop, but her character as a whole left much to be desired. Perhaps, at the end of the day it’s not really Hudson’s fault; it seemed that the development of all other characters was sacrificed in order to ensure that Changez had a chance to grow to the fullest. Sadly, this seemed most apparent with Erica’s character, especially as she is a rather strong influence throughout Hamid’s novel.
As far as the storyline goes, the basic premise is definitely there as is the search for identity which is one of the most important parts of the book. However, be warned that a lot of things vary in the film, including the ending which is a bit more conclusive than that of the book. Personally, I prefer the book ending, but then I understand the Hollywood need to give everyone closure – hence the rather dramatic final scene. All the same, at times I had the distinct feeling that there were two divergent stories here: that of the movie and that of the book. If I hadn’t already read the book prior and had instead done so after watching the film, I probably would have been quite astonished at what the original tale is supposed to look like. But, as with everything else in life, you can’t have everything you want when it comes to book – film conversions.
Director Mira Nair has done Mohsin Hamid’s fantastic book some justice in her film version – even if a lot of book fans might not agree with it. If you haven’t yet seen the film or read the book I would highly recommend checking out Hamid’s novel before you decide to hit that ‘Play’ button. You’ll be able to watch the movie with a firm idea of each character’s background and possibly understand the confusion and drama most of them experience in the film. Of course if you have read the book and seen the movie, I’d love to hear what you have to say! Did you like one more than the other? What would you change about the film? What are your favorite parts of each?
And don’t worry! I’ll be sharing more with you about meeting Mohsin Hamid in person and hearing what he had to say about being a widely known author. So stay tuned! :D