Leon van Nierop
2 minute read
23 Aug 2013
5:55 am

Paranoia: Pakistani man faces post-9/11 stereotypes

Leon van Nierop

A man's life is irrevocably altered by the changed perceptions of a nation gripped by fear in The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

A bright, up and coming Pakistani associate for a big American corporate firm finds himself living and fulfilling the American dream. But when he is out of the country on business, disaster strikes: the Twin Towers collapse, and with it Changez’s future, his chances of moving up in Wall Street, his new-found patriotism and hope for a better future. 

To complicate matters, young Changez also realises that he is not welcome in America anymore and, as a Pakistani, is now viewed with suspicion. He also comes to the conclusion that he will never be fully integrated in the American culture or way of life. He is now a haunted outsider, a suspicious alien after the 9/11 attacks and, to make matters worse, is now viewed as a potential terrorist.

His past comes back to haunt him as his relationship with a beautiful yet troubled American artist also goes wrong. She was the cherry on the top of his capitalist dream, until the 9/11-attacks destroy their relationship and one of her exhibitions implies that he could be a terrorist. He again falls victim to American paranoia. By the way, the seriously underrated Kate Hudson gives a strong, convincing performance as the unstable artist.



Mira Nair directs this intense, often disturbing drama with a firm hand. Although the metaphors are often a bit too obvious (Kate Hudson symbolizes American decadence, Schreiber the press who cannot be trusted, his parents the strict Muslim culture and beliefs), she manages to mostly keep the film under control, but the issues it tries to address are often too overwhelming for a 120-minute-plus film.

One gets the distinctive feeling that chunks of the story are missing or that certain themes could have been explored more fully. Especially the Liev Schreiber-character is seriously underwritten and underdeveloped.

If you want to experience what it means to fall victim to prejudice in America at a time when anger is spilling over, this movie will lead to serious debate and even introspection. People who have read Mohsin Hamid’s respected novel on which it is based, say that it is superior to the film and, because of the novel’s structure, is largely unfilmable.

But one thing is for sure. Riz Ahmed as the confused and angry Changez is a major new talent on the international cinema horizon. You are going to see a lot more of him