THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST
Just as costume designer Arjun Basin threaded modern Western details into the Pakistani clothes of the younger cast members, Mira Nair, working with American composer Michael Andrews, layered the film's score with traditional Pakistani songs, Urdu poetry set to music, cutting-edge Pakistani pop, funk and rap, vocals from Amy Ray of folk group the Indigo Girls, and a new original song from Peter Gabriel, an old friend of Nair's.
This music represents the intertwining of old and new, of ancient and modern, which is a major theme of the movie. For the most part, it is a source of great joy for Changez and his Pakistani contemporaries, exemplified by the close relationship he enjoys with his family, particularly his mother, played by star Shabana Azmi, and sister, played by Meesha Shafi, a popular Pakistani singer.
The film's opening scene sees Changez at home in Lahore with his extended family, listening to Qawwali, a form of devotional Sufi music, sung by a family of 12 renowned Pakistani Qawwali singers, led by brothers Fareed Ayaz and Abu Mohammed, from Karachi. The film uses an eightminute duet called "Kangna," sung by Ayaz and Mohammed for this scene. Getting the singers to India from Pakistan was no easy feat -- the performers ultimately walked over the border to make it to the set in time for the filming.
"Every film gives me a chance to explore a world of music," says Nair. For The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Pakistani modern funk was her inspiration. The director discovered the new sounds of Pakistan on the Coca-Cola Company's Coke Studio, a hugely popular and influential Pakistani music TV series. It melds together legendary singers and younger musicians to reimagine ancient songs with jazz and folk influences. "It's not just fusion. There is a real depth to this amalgam," says Nair. "It's like nothing I have heard."
"The poems of the Pakistani poet laureate Faiz Ahmed Faiz, beloved by my father, have become the heart of many songs in the film," Nair continues. "His poems are put to music and we composed new versions of his poems. I went back to Pakistan and found Atif Aslam, the Kanye West of Pakistan, who is the nation's biggest pop star."
Aslam sings in Urdu on two songs in the film: "Mori Araj Suno," featured in the scene Changez sails down the Bosporus in Istanbul, and the Urdu vocals of Peter Gabriel's final song "Bol." Gabriel sings the English lyrics.
For the Pakistani songs, the Los Angeles-based Andrews created the overlay of contemporary funk. "It was a very iconoclastic decision to go with Mike Andrews. He has composed a few films but the one I really fell for was Donnie Darko." Nair recalls. "I called him up from Delhi. We didn't waste time and were very direct. I asked him how far east he had traveled and he said, 'San Diego!' And I just started laughing."
Andrews was immediately invited to India, to Nair's Delhi edit suite, where he began absorbing the film. "At its heart, whatever this film is, it's very much about America," says Nair of her choice to work Andrews. "People falling in love with it, people falling out of love with it. I had to have a musician who understood the American heartbeat, for I was quite confident I understood the subcontinent one."
Back home in Los Angeles, Andrews began composing the near hour-long score, on which he plays everything almost entirely himself, except for the orchestral sequences. "Mira did want other instruments from Pakistan," Andrews explains. "She has great relationships with folks in the region, and because I was so far away, Mira took care of it. I sent her my music to be overdubbed with melodies represented and she actually recorded bansuri flute, and also took care of the vocal on "Mori Araj Suno." Simultaneously, I added Alam Khan, Ali Akbar's son, and Salar Nadir. Then I put the tracks under the vocal and the orchestra under the mock-up and real bansuri." This all took place over the Internet, through endless uploading and downloading. "Most of our discussions took place after Mira had worked a 16-hour day," says Andrews.
"When you work for Mira, you can't help but want to do everything possible and impossible," he continues. "She is so committed to her vision that all the twists and turns are part of the search for what the film is. With all the shading and framing taking place in editorial, the music had to bob and weave in the process of defining the final tone. Mira wanted the whole world to be open to this film, so hopefully the music helps in that regard."
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