British cross-cultural comedy The Reluctant Infidel, which was sold out at both its Melbourne International Film Festival screenings in July 2010 and was released nationally two months later, is to be remade and set in India.
The film's title refers to Mahmud, a likeable everyman from the East End of London who promises to act as if he is a more observant Muslim than he really is so that the jihadist stepfather of the girl his son wants to marry does not object to the union. But Mahmud subsequently discovers he is adopted – and Jewish – unleashing an identity crisis.
In the new film, the protagonist will think he is a Muslim one minute and Hindu the next and, if the production company gets everything right, presumably the scenario can be just as amusing.
“I think it's a terrific idea and I don't think it matters whether he is Muslim or Christian or any other religion,” said Richard Becker in response to the news of the remake. “Humour is a wonderful way of opening up discussion on sensitive subjects.”
As managing director of distribution company Becker Film Group, he was the one who ushered the original film into Australian cinemas, but not before he successfully sought permission to change the name of the film, which was known as just The Infidel in its home market in the UK, where it was a hit with audiences.
“I felt (the title) The Infidel had serious connotations,” said Becker. “It was all about giving the right message: this film is a bit of fun, don't take it too seriously.”
He was disappointed that British-Iranian comedian Omid Djalili (pictured), who played Mahmud with great panache, was unable to visit Australia for a planned publicity tour in the lead-up to The Reluctant Infidel going into cinemas. This would have helped him get word out to a broad Australian audience.
Josh Appignanesi directed the original from a script by David Baddiel; Trigno Media is the Indian company that has just acquired the rights to develop the remake.
Becker is delighted with the weekend performance of his latest release Margin Call, which opened last Thursday. The ensemble cast of the Wall Street drama, which received a nomination for best original screenplay, includes Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Simon Baker, Paul Bettany, Demi Moore and Stanley Tucci.