Mira Nair discusses “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” and TIFF
Mira Nair has a great history with the Toronto Film Festival. Her films like “Salaam Bombay” and “The Namesake” have debuted at TIFF. But she was also supposed to debut “Monsoon Wedding” at the festival in 2001. But when two planes crashed into the World Trade Center, all plans were scratched.
In a great interview with Indiewire, she discusses that fateful September more than 10 years ago:
On Sept 9, 2011, I had received the Golden Lion at Venice. I flew directly to Toronto, and my family was to join me on the 11th. I was doing 15 interviews a day, and i had started to do the first one. That’s when the first plane hit. I was in the Intercontinental Hotel, Juliette Lewis was in 2nd room. We had done “Hysterical Blindness” a few months before. She ran into my room when the first plane hit, she needed to be with me, with someone she knew. We didn’t know what was happening.
Four minutes later, the second plane hit, other actors, everyone being interviewed at the time was staring at the television. We realized this was something extremely serious.
It was a surreal time, all of us were sort of marooned. We were all living in the Park Hyatt with the doors open. People were in a daze. It was an enforced cocoon that we were in. David Lynch had rented a rock tour bus to go back to California, but I was headed to New York. It took me four days to find a train ticket, sixteen hours to get back to New York. Grand Central Station was a war zone. There was dust in the air. I drove up to where I live on the Upper West Side. It was a very strange time. There, people were walking their dogs looking normal.
Piers brought up that memory, but that memory isn’t what inspired the film. Obviously, however you experienced it stays in your mind and you think of it.
So while that memory of the attack didn’t inspire her adaptation of “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”, the issues surrounding 9/11 and its aftermath certainly did:
It was what happened since 9/11 that inspired the film. An increasing war between the East and West, specifically the Western world and the Islamic world. It’s a divide that’s almost impenetrable except for war, and I’ve seen one war escalate into another. There’s no sense of dialogue or bridge-making.
The force for the film came when I went to Pakistan for the first time six years ago. My father, in fact, was born in Lahore but moved back to India before. My films are very popular there. I was raised Lahori. The [culture of the subcontinent] is richer in Lahore than it is in India. India has lost it. It was a world I had never seen, forget about in movies. I was inspired first to make a contemporary portrait of a country. It’s always about violence and hijackings, but never what it also really is. Indian filmmakers have done the partition many times in films, but never the contemporary Pakistan.
For the full interview, please go to Indiewire.