Monday, October 24, 2016

Tabish Khair's "Just Another Jihadi Jane"

Born and educated in a small town of India, Tabish Khair now lives in a village of Denmark. Winner of the All India Poetry Prize and shortlisted for a number of international fiction prizes, including the prestigious Man Asian Booker and Encore Prize in UK, Khair’s latest novel is Just Another Jihadi Jane.

Here Khair dreamcasts an adaptation of Just Another Jihadi Jane:
My novel tells the story of two British-Asian girls who run off to Syria-Iraq to join the so-called ‘jihad,’ and what happens to them. One of them, Jamilla, has been born and brought up in a narrowly religious Muslim family from Pakistan, and almost grows into fundamentalism. The other, Ameena, comes from a broken Indian Muslim household, and is attracted to Islamist extremism for another set of (personal and political) reasons. Both are in their early 20s. Jamilla is studious, submissive and has been wearing a hijab from the time she turned thirteen; she is also strikingly beautiful: I think Nazneen Contractor, from Star Trek Into Darkness, has the sort of sensuality that will come across even in a hijab, and hence she will be good for the role, despite being a few years older than Jamilla in the book. Ameena is a different kind of girl, spunky, more conflicted that Jamilla: the Canadian actress, Lisa Ray from I Can’t Think Straight, or Freida Pinto, from Slumdog Millionaire, though both are probably a bit older than Ameena in my novel. But then all three look much younger than they are, or they would hardly be actresses in Hollywood, would they?

In my novel, Ameena and Jamilla are recruited online by a woman in her 40s, an attractive and suave Arab woman, whose husband is an ISIS commander. Her Twitter handle is Hejjiye. She needs to be someone who can exude authority as well as beauty: The Syrian actress, Sulafa Refat Memar, comes to mind. At 40, she is younger than Hejjiye in my novel, but only a bit. She has the presence.

There are many other interesting female characters in Just Another Jihadi Jane, but only two male ones: Alex, a high-school heart-throb of Ameena’s who ditches her, and the angry jihadi, Hassan, whom Ameena marries after running away from home. Alex is blonde, handsome, athletic and vain: Robert Pattinson from Twilight maybe, with his hair dyed a lighter shade? Hassan is an older Arab man, in his thirties, heavy-set, brutal and charming in turns: Wouldn’t it be fun to cast Henry Cavill from Man of Steel in that role? He has the build, and with a bit of makeup, he can look Arab.

The biggest problem will be casting the landscape: my novel is set in England, Turkey, Syria and Iraq, and it unlikely that the last two devastated places will be harbouring film crews in the near future. But that, of course, is the minutest of so many problems and tragedies besetting that part of the world.
Visit Tabish Khair's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Thing About Thugs.

Writers Read: Tabish Khair.

--Marshal Zeringue