, I touched a little on the Taqwacores
adaptation. It's currently in post-production, Eyad and Josh are in LA putting it together... and it's looking like, well, a real movie. Sorry if that's not mind-blowing to anyone else but me. When the novel first went from photocopied and spiral-bound to perfect binding and a bar code, all I could say was, "Wow, it looks like a book."
Making this story into a film was an act of translation, like putting it into another language. Someone once said that translations could either be faithful or beautiful; if you want one, you might be offended by the other. Coleman Barks, the world's leading Rumi translator, isn't really a translator. He doesn't understand Persian — can't speak it, can't read it. He collects the various English translations and builds his Rumi in English that way. I don't know how faithful that could be, but apparently he's captured the beauty, and he's done something for Rumi that perhaps the more scientific translators couldn't do.
The Taqwacores movie is going to be faithful — Eyad actually believed in the book's promise as a film more than I did. The actors all wanted to be true to their characters, and they wanted the most for their characters. Volkan Eryaman didn't want Amazing Ayyub to just be slapstick and goofy, he wanted the guy's heart to shine through. Bobby Naderi didn't want Yusef to just be a dork, and Nav Mann couldn't see Umar as just the fundamentalist jerk, but wanted to show his compassion too. They could've played these characters lazy, but instead made them more fully human. Anne Leighton, who played Lynn, and Ian Tran, who played Fasiq, both related to their characters, and got on the side of their characters. Our conversations got pretty deep. The way that these characters and their conflicts played out, I actually felt sympathetic for all of them.
I think that we also have the beauty part down. Tony Yalda's character, Muzammil, might have blended in as he was written, but Tony made him pop. Same with Rasika Mathur, who took Fatima and made her cool. In both cases, Tony and Rasika gave so much new life to their characters without being unfaithful to them.
A few people said that we couldn't have a character in a full burqa the whole time — no eyes, no facial expression, nothing? It was almost one of those issues where the "Hollywoodization" of a novel might kill the things that made it unique, but Noureen DeWulf put on the burqa and owned Rabeya. Eyad and I both knew that if the film was going to get it right, we had to get Rabeya right. And Noureen did it.
I wanted to get into the complexities of turning a book into a movie, and it ended up being a parade of shout-outs to the cast. If that's what it is, due respect must be given to Dominic Rains, who was faithful, beautiful, and gave me something very special. Dom, I remember all of those conversations in Eyad's driveway, all the long builds during lunch, our deep builds on Sufism and Jehangir. I remember you walking around in Jehangir's plaid pants with a Rumi translation — was it Barks? — pulling people aside and reading them passages. And I remember showing up on the set to find you, as Jehangir, in a drum circle with Marwan from Al-Thawra, the real-life taqwacore band. I didn't know you before the shoot, so for three weeks, it was like Jehangir had magically walked into my life and become real. Now that I actually know you, I'm just thankful to know you.
Eyad, the cast and crew all left me stunned. I was never prepared for something like this to happen, and I'm still not even fully okay with it — part of me is still at the place where I look at the book and say, "Wow, it looks like a book." And to see all of these amazing people come together and make something cool out of it, I can't get over the "Wow, it's a real movie" moment.
I think that my feelings about the book are still based on how I felt about myself at the time when I wrote it: bummy, insecure, loser. Any other writers go through that? Does your book keep you at a certain place? When I pick that thing up, it's 2002 again, and I'm sitting in the dumpster.