MY SON THE FANATIC

UK 1997, 87 min.
 

director.gif (905 bytes)Udayan Prasad

CAST

Om Puri - Parvez
Rachel Griffiths - Bettina

Stellan Skarsgård - Schitz

Akbar Kurtha - Farid
Gopi Desai - Minoo
Harish Patel - Fizzy


SYNOPSIS

A Pakistani taxi driver living in northern England self-destructs after he is goaded into leading a more hedonistic lifestyle by a kinky German businessman and ends up havinghas an affair with one of the prostitutes he shuttles around town. His life is further destabilized when his son embraces Islamic fundamentalism and invites a religious leader and his followers into their home.

button_box.gif (205 bytes) PRODUCTION NOTES:

In the early 90s, British-Indian filmmaker Udayan Prasad read a short story written by his friend and colleague Hanif Kureishi. "My Son the Fanatic" had been published in the popular American literary publication New Yorker and Kureishi explored the idea of whether it had the potential to be made into a movie. Prasad said, "It was a contemporary story and what attracted me to it was that it tackled global issues, but through the life of a humble man - a Pakistani taxi driver in a provincial English town." Filming took place in the fall of 1996 in London and West Yorkshire. [photo below shows director Prasad with Om Puri]

button_box.gif (205 bytes) PHOTOS:

button_box.gif (205 bytes) REVIEWS:

"Although the themes are a little overworked, and the finale seems a little too pat, the movie is very satisfying. Puri's performance is spectacular, as he takes you on a unique character journey. By the end of this movie, you feel a presence that stays with you long afterward. But he's just the central character in Kureishi's absorbing world – one that you feel privileged and fascinated to experience for yourself."  ...Desson Howe, Washington Post

"Writer Hanif Kureishi has made a career, as both novelist and screenwriter, out of examining the cultural complexities and problems of the British Asian community and/or middle-aged men. In Parvez, he creates a believably flawed character - a compassionate man whose actions might be unsavoury, were they not carried out with such a naive good will. Puri delivers an astounding performance, playing a father wracked by doubt and despair (his dilemma an inversion of his character's in "East is East") and the Australian Griffiths totally convinces as a Bradford 'tart'. An intelligent, thought-provoking film which doesn't offer any answers, but raises several challenging, important questions."    ...Andy Jacobs, BBC

"Effortlessly well-written, with nuanced characters that easily come to life on the screen, 'My Son the Fanatic' does justice to the unlikely love story it uncovers as well as the troubling underlying reality of adapting to a new country and a new culture. Intelligent, poignant and witty, it involves us in real issues without stinting on their complexity and without forgetting to be caring toward people caught in the undertow of forces they cannot begin to control."   ...Kenneth Turan, LA Times

"The story of 'My Son the Fanatic' delves into the vagaries of self-image while purposefully twisting Hollywood's more obvious approach to father-son conflicts. It's a wonderful little movie, in turns hilarious and bittersweet. It's also the most consistently powerful piece of filmmaking to be released so far this year."   ...Paul Tatara, CNN

"It's an atmospheric and persuasively acted film, with loosely sketched characters who still come fully to life. As the prostitute, Ms. Griffiths makes a touching if sentimentally drawn figure, and the other roles are similarly well cast." ...Janet Maslin, NY Times

"This collaborative work by Kureishi and Prasad is a moving, often funny, and stubbornly unconventional love story about a Pakistani taxi-driver and a prostitute... Om Puri gives a remarkable performance as Parvez... Anyone familiar with the work of this veteran of Indian cinema will expect nothing less."   ...Harvey Thompson, wsws.org

"Puri and Kureishi have crafted a rich portrait of a man who senses his life is coming apart and isn't sure whether to be devastated or relieved. 'My Son the Fanatic' has the sense not to try to tie up all of his loose ends, instead letting him exist with his very real ambiguities."  ...Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

"Australian actress Rachel Griffiths is a knockout as Bettina the hooker who finds her own badly needed affection in Parvez. Strange as it may seem, or perhaps the result of two outstanding actors delivering complex and credible characters, this relationship is totally believable, for all its contrasts. He an older Pakistani husband and father with traditional values, she a lonely little North England tart... Udayan Prasad's direction is focused and strong on storytelling, and all the production values are tops."   ...Andrew L. Urban, Urban Cinefile

"The film's primary focus is Parvez, and Puri brings a nice combination of confusion, earnestness and warmth to the role. The characters prove fairly engaging overall and there is some very funny dialogue... The film's biggest surprise is its evocative look, courtesy of director of photography Alan Almond. Blue shafts of light pierce the darkness, and fragments of faces, half in light, half in darkness, are caught in the taxi's rearview mirror. The cinematography lends an edginess to the picture that helps take it out of the realm of straight comedy and into the more complex universe its characters inhabit."   ...Riverfront Times

"This is a wonderfully evocative, provocative film. It makes you think, but it is also emotionally affecting. Rarely is it manipulative (though, as mentioned above, there are some misses - Bettina/Sandra's bruises, for example, were not needed). As in 'My Beautiful Laundrette', the film strongly features themes of a forbidden romance, the lower fringe classes of English society, fathers and sons, and colonial history. It is highly satisfying, but never facile."   ...Post Punk Cinema Club

"The film probes universal conflicts, using disparate lives to examine the broad moral themes of love versus duty and happiness versus personal sacrifice – in addition to the racial and cultural problems inherent in assimilation. It gets a bit melodramatic towards the conclusion but, on the whole, it’s quite engaging, pursing the point that after a certain age, there’s no point in saying ‘No’ to everything."      ...Film critic Susan Granger

"'My Son the Fanatic' is built on incongruities–on the juxtaposition of fierce Islamic piety and amiable Western dissolution. The tensions give it a comic tingle, but that comedy is rooted in melancholy and alienation. The mix of tones is marvelously embodied in Om Puri, a charismatic, slightly ravaged star of Indian cinema."
...David Edelstein, Slate