I trust Mira Nair`s integrity, aesthetics: Mohsin Hamid

Updated: Feb 06, 2011, 17:41 PM IST

New Delhi: Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid is excited about the prospect of his novel `Reluctant Fundamentalist` being adapted into a movie by Mira Nair even though the on-screen version will be "substantially" different from the original story.

The author says he was "charmed" by Mira`s cinematic vision and agreed immediately.

"I trust Mira`s integrity and aesthetics, so I am excited to see what her film becomes," Hamid told reporters in an exclusive interview.

The incident in the novel takes place in an outdoor Lahore cafe, where a bearded Pakistani man called Changez tells an American stranger about his love affair, and eventual abandonment of America but Mira has also introduced songs and a female character in the story.

"The film and the book will be different, and in some ways substantially so. But that is to be expected: they are two different art forms, responding to the vision of two different people."

Hamid, who is currently working on his third novel following the success of "Moth Smoke" and "Reluctant Fundamentalist", was approached by Mira a few months after the book was published.

They met over lunch and the deal was struck.

"We are both Punjabis, we love Lahore, we feel a passionate connection to the story of my novel, and we believe strongly in the need for Indo-Pakistani contact and collaboration. So it was an easy decision," says Hamid.

Mira is not new to book adaptations. She has already tackled "Vanity Fair" and "Namesake". The filmmaker is planning to rope in some big names from Hollywood and Bollywood for her ambitious project, which she says, is her answer to the way West views Islam after 9/11.

Hamid also agrees that the incident and its aftermath impacted him and the novel in a big way but says though the novel has "autobiographical elements" it is not his life`s story.

"9/11 and its aftermath transformed my life. I had been living easily between New York and Lahore. That became difficult to do. Pakistanis were suddenly suspects there. And Pakistan and America both changed, in many senses for the worse, in the following decade," he says, adding the impact has also affected his writing.

Hamid`s novel has been praised for its structure too but the author says the dramatic monologue was deliberate because he wanted to draw attention to different biases within the story.

"The novel is told the way it is, as a dramatic monologue very deliberately. Partly this is to shut out `one side` of the story -- not to deny the truth of the `other side` but to draw attention to the novel`s own biases," says Hamid adding that the medium also opens up "interpretative spaces" for the reader.

"I believe in involving the reader as a co-creator, as a partner in the dance. So my technique as a novelist often involves creating ambiguity, and exploiting the tension between a realist narrative and an unreal frame. My first novel, `Moth Smoke`, also used a variant of this same approach," he says.

It took Hamid seven years and several drafts to complete his two books but the author, who is currently working on a new novel, says he wants to finish it early.

"I am currently working on my third novel. The first two took seven years each. Hopefully this one will be a little quicker, may be six years. I also occasionally write articles and short stories, but at the moment I am focused on the new novel," he says.