I’ve had this movie sitting in my library for a long time now. I don’t know why it took so long to get to it. The reluctant fundamentalist is a moving story to say the least. It is about a young Pakistani man’s progression from successful financial analyst at one of the top New York firms to a professor back home who is against US intervention in Pakistan. I found the film compelling as it tells a much-needed side of the “terrorism” story. (To tell the truth, I might have had a pretty biased view of Islam up till now. Partly because one of my two upper six french teachers was strongly anti-Islam. Anyway, blinkers away now.)
A Princeton graduate and natural in his field, Changez has a successful career ahead of him at the time of 9/11. Despite his ivy-league degree and rich employee, he too becomes a suspect after the brutal killing of almost 3000 Americans on that fateful September day.
Sneak peek into two of the most riveting scenes for me. The first is the airport scene following 9/11. Changez arrives at a US airport following a business trip in the Philippines with his coworkers. Of the three people who arrive together, only Changez goes thorough the thorough and humiliating exam he goes through. When the security asks him to strip and then proceeds to ruffle his hair as if he has dynamite stashed somewhere there, it is impossible not to let out a sad laugh. When they tell him to bend over and spread his legs though, what popped into my mind is a scene out of “Someone knows my name”, (undeniably my favorite historical fiction book) which portrays the life of Aminata Diallo, a slave in the US during the 19th century.
When he gets picked up by the cops and they ask him if he ever did any combat training in Afghanistan or if he’s ever been a member of a terrorist organization. Changez says “What was soft inside of me fell away. What was hard became harder” and it not hard to see why. How unjust is it to be prejudged simply because you share a skin color with a killer. Would the world have progressed past the holocaust I every white German had been labeled a “Hitler” and if every white in Zimbabwe was seen as a “Cecil Rhodes”. The saddest thing about watching the movie was that I realized that such prejudice portrayed still happens even today. Take for example, the racist comments that followed the crowning of the reigning Miss America, Indian American, Nina Davuluri; “Congratulations Al-Qaeda. Our Miss America is one of you.”
The movie is about 2 hours long but rest assured discrimination and fundamentalism aren’t the only topics covered. The film also explores the not “the dream’ which so many youths aspire to wherever they are and the hunger with which they pursue it and gives food for thought on whether what we dream of is always what we really need .
It also follows our hero’s relationship with an American woman, played by what looks like a really pregnant Kate Hudson (couldn’t really confirm because she wore baggy clothes throughout). All in all, this is a great movie to watch especially if you are like me, someone who looks for something a bit more intellectually stimulating than the usual RomCom. Plot is realistic and yet engaging. Plus the Changez of it is pretty good eye candy:)