When one door shuts, another opens. Michael Carlin, the production designer of the film, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, (he has also worked on films such as The Last King of Scotland and The Duchess among others in the past), would definitely mirror this thought. Carlin was working on a Fela Kuti project with filmmakers Lydia Pilcher and Steve McQueen, but when it didn’t take off, Carlin was suggested by Pilcher to connect with director Mira Nair and before he knew, he was brainstorming on the locations for the film. In an email interview, Carlin gets candid with The Guide about his association with Mira Nair and the experience of creating Lahore in Old Delhi amongst other challenges.
How was it working with Mira Nair on The Reluctant Fundamentalist?
Great! Mira is a very visual director, so it was a pleasure to work with her.
Did she give you a free hand, or did she give her inputs as well?
Mira is very involved in the choice of the locations and the look of the film, though she did give us the freedom to have a lot of input into the sets.
How challenging was it to work on this film? What were the most difficult parts?
The construction department for this film was very good and produced work of an excellent standard. Other elements of the film were more challenging particularly dressing the more up-market interiors.
You had to create Lahore in Old Delhi for the film. What was the experience like?
We built the main Exterior Street in the grounds of the Anglo-Islamic school so we had total control. Shooting on the streets of Old Delhi was more challenging, as there were hundreds of signs to change and lots of contemporary details that weren’t right for the story. Also, there were hundreds of pedal rickshaws everywhere that needed to be cleared and of course, the huge presence of traffic and crowds.
What were the most integral points that you had to bear in mind while converting Old Delhi into Lahore for the film?
The architecture was very similar, so that didn’t pose as a problem. But the main aspects were the signage and other elements mentioned earlier.
Did you get any inputs from the author of the book, Mohsin Hamid? And have you read the book?
Yes, the book was a constant inspiration and Mohsin was often around to give advice on all sorts of details.