Casting an actor for the lead role of her critically acclaimed film The Reluctant Fundamentalist wasn’t an easy task for director Mira Nair, but she rejected even actors like Bollywood’s Ranbir Kapoor because she felt he hadn’t seen enough ‘worlds’.
Various names were tossed around, including the names of Bollywood heartthrob Ranbir Kapoor and the talented Irrfan Khan, however Mira finally settled for British Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed.
In an interview with CNN-IBN, Nair said that although Ranbir was absolutely ‘charming’ and also gave a ‘wonderful’ audition, she wanted someone who had experienced ‘many worlds’ and Ranbir did not have that kind of experience.
“I started with Pakistan, and wonderful actors, great looking men, but how to have that all worldly experience! You can direct so much but you cannot have the unflappability of someone who is equally at home at Lahore and equally at home in the Lower East Side,” she said.
“And I met with Ranbir, he gave a wonderful screen test, wonderful audition, but again he knows only one world, and he was very charming but I needed someone who had experienced many worlds, you know to play this. And it took me a long time to find Riz Ahmed, because I needed that kind of intelligence and worldliness and of course great looks and charisma,” Nair told CNN-IBN.
On 17 November, the Doha Tribeca Film Festival (DTFF) opened with The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Nair received a standing ovation for the film at the Venice film festival.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist is based on a novel by author Mohsin Hamid and narrates the story of a young man from Pakistan named Changez who wanted to be a part of the American dream and his subsequent disillusionment with America after 9/11.
The film also stars Kate Hudson and Liev Schreiber and is said to be one of Nair’s most ambitious projects.