Route to understanding
WITH Pakistan more often than not being covered by the Western press for less than laudatory reasons, it is heartening that this time it’s because Hollywood took note of local talent. Writer Mohsin Hamid has been in the news because The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Mira Nair’s big-screen adaptation of his acclaimed 2007 book by the same title, opened the 69th Venice Film Festival on Aug 30. We wish the film, which follows the New York-based protagonist’s journey from being a Wall Street high-flyer to a radical in Lahore after 9/11, every success. Mohsin Hamid’s achievement follows that of Karachi-based Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy in February when her documentary Saving Face, co-directed with Daniel Junge, won in the category of best documentary short in the Oscars. Days before the premiere of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Pakistani filmmaking was also in the international news when the film Lamha premiered at the New York City International Film Festival and won two awards.
The theme of The Reluctant Fundamentalist is relevant to today’s Pakistan while Saving Face addresses another pertinent issue. It can be argued that these represent Pakistanis’ efforts to understand and distil their experiences through creative outlets, presenting to Western audiences a route to understanding. For this reason, they are worth appreciating, and need to be taken further by making similar efforts in local languages, for Pakistani audiences. A key function of the creative arts is to help a society understand its situation, how it arrived there, and what the way forward might be. This is desperately needed here in Pakistan, where people are caught in a never-ending ‘now’ and the lack of context is increasingly leading to a lack of introspection. The state and society in Pakistan must support our authors, filmmakers, theatre-persons, artists etc to build bridges in a deeply divided polity.