The Reluctant Fundamentalist takes the reluctant part of its title very seriously and takes the time to show you how a young man with the usual ambitions of making it big can change from that ambitious person to someone more in touch with his inner self and his quest for his identity.
For this reason you may find the movie slow in it’s telling but nowhere is there a drag in the story. It gradually but very firmly builds up the story of Chengiz Khan who goes to the USA from Pakistan at the age of 18, gets picked up by a top notch investment firm, acquires an American girlfriend and is all set to live the American dream when 9/11 happens and his world comes crashing down. Being a Muslim in the US at that vulnerable time makes him a common target. The racial slurs affect his job and his relationship and he moves back to Lahore where he becomes a Professor and gets involved with students, teaching them to question their beliefs and dreams about Pakistan. An American Professor gets kidnapped and the CIA zeros down on him as someone who can lead them to the kidnapped Professor and the Mujahedeen hideout. Does he tell? Is he a militant? What is his role? These are the questions that get answered in the final tense moments of the movie.
Riz Khan has a vulnerability, which he uses beautifully to portray the conflicted Chengiz Khan as he evolves from a confident brat to a troubled young man. Kate Hudson looks fat and frowsy but is decent as the girlfriend. Live Shreiber as the mentor is the effective face f hardnosed capitalism. Shabana Azmi and Om Puri are the usual Mira Nair suspects and don’t have much to do in this movie. Pakistani singer Meesha Shafi as his sister is charming and I hope we see more of her in Indian movies.
The music score is outstanding, especially the first Quwaali and will haunt you long after the movie is over.
This is an evocative movie about a personal transformation.As a South Asian it raises questions you dont often think about. Don’t go for it if you are in a Badtameez dil kind of wacky mood. But if the summer has slowed you down and you can sit back and soak in and then brood a bit over then this is perfect.