Delhi became Lahore ’coz of safety concerns in Pakistan'
Garima Sharma, TNN | Dec 19, 2011, 12.00AM IThe writer has posted comments on this articleSTRead
Hamid and his wife Zahra ride a rickshaw to the film’s shoot near Ajmeri Gate, because of a traffic jam
author of 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist', denies that permissions were the reason behind not shooting Mira Nair's film on his novel in Pakistan, as reported
While Mira Nair was shooting for "The Reluctant Fundamentalist", based on Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid's novel of the same name in Delhi in November , Hollywood biggies like Liev Schreiber and girlfriend Naomi Watts (who brought along their two children for a holiday) made their way here. But what remained a secret was that Hamid was in Delhi too, spending almost three weeks here for the shoot. He surprised us by saying that contrary to what's been reported, the film was not shot in Lahore (where the story is based) and was recreated in Delhi, not because the crew didn't get permission, but because there were concerns with the crew's safety in Pakistan.
Was it clear from the beginning that Lahore would be recreated in Delhi, as the team couldn't get permissions to shoot in Lahore?
I don't think there were any permission issues. Because it's an international film with an international cast, films like these have an insurance bond, and it was impossible to get that kind of insurance bond to take these stars to Lahore. There were concerns about their safety there. Mira met me twice in Lahore in the last two years, and she spent a couple of weeks there, discovering what all she wanted to shoot and where. And then, the governor of Pakistan's Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was assassinated. He was a family friend and had promised to support us, but after his death, the whole
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changed. No one felt sure about taking the production to Lahore. The government was not the problem.
How much is Lahore a part of it now?
Very much. Mira has come to Lahore looking for music, Pakistani fashion... we went to meet contemporary Lahori artistes. Even on the sets in Delhi, she'd often ask, "Is this guy looking like a chhalli (bhutta) wala in Lahore?" She's very keen to infuse pakistan and Lahore in the film.
How much are you involved in the making of the film?
People often overestimate how much control a novelist has, and it can be very painful and frightening for a novelist to have control over a project like this. So, early on only, I decided to just stay apart and enjoy the project. I'm like a father and the novel is like my child, who I've handed over to the boarding school. I can now only sit back and hope that the school is good to my child and he/she grows up to be happy.
When did you first give over the rights?
I was approached by a few directors immediately after the novel was printed. Mira was in Londan and she took me and my wife out for lunch. Obviously, since "Salaam Bombay", I was aware of her work and I thought she was an enormously talented filmmaker. I felt a great degree of comfort in handing over the project. I have not regretted that. She has been very inclusive of me... I'd thought that the best thing to do and the easiest emotionally, was to not see it being made. But that was probably not meant to be. Two years ago, Mira came and said that she was finding it difficult to get a screenwriter to adapt this. She said those who get the desi context don't get the New york corporate bit, and vice versa. She asked me to draft a first copy of the screenplay.
Was this your first time in Delhi?
I've been to India several times. But this is the first time that I spent several weeks in Delhi. We went exploring the cafes, nightlife, restaurants, etc in Delhi, and it has become a much more international and interesting city in the last several years. Through Mira and the film, and the locations, I got to see places like the Delhi University campus, the Anglo Arabic school at Ajmeri Gate, Ritz Cinema in Kashmere Gate, the Old Delhi Railway Station - I got to soak up a bit of the older parts of Delhi that I wouldn't have done otherwise. Also, these three weeks were extra special because my family was also here. My wife Zara, my parents, my daughter, my wife's parents, my sister-in-law, too... there were 11 of us here, and we rented a flat. It was the first time in Delhi for a lot of them and I think they left thinking that we are only a 45-minute flight away from Lahore, yet it feels like you're travelling to another planet.