TORONTO: The book that was “impossible to film’ has been finally filmed and filmed brilliantly.
Salman Rushdie’s Booker Prize winning novel Midnight’s Children’s film adaptation by Deepa Mehta made its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival here Friday.
After reading the novel, you don’t need to be a film critic to appreciate the difficulties filming such a multi-layered, complex work.
But after watching the film, one cannot fault Rushdie who said that the cast with no `Bombay ultra-stars left their egos at home and gave us their all.’’
The script brings to the big screen every aspect of the epic novel – Hindu-Muslim cultural divisions culminating in the Partition of 1947, later wars and the birth of Bangladesh, Indira Gandhi’s emergency rule, romance, surfeit of ironies, quirks of destiny and magical powers of the protagonist.
And the protagonist is Saleem Sinai (played by Satya Bhabha) who is one of the 581 Midnight’s Children born when India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was delivering his `tryst with destiny’ speech on the night of August 14.
Saleem is born to a poor woman, but nurse Mary at a Bombay hospital swaps him with Shiva (played by Southern star Siddharth ) who is born to rich parents. Thus, these two Midnight’s Children grow up to live each other’s destiny.
Endowed with psychic powers ostensibly because of his rather long nose, Saleem possesses uncanny ability to communicate with all the 581 Midnight’s Children. But his father doesn’t like it.
Then comes the revelation that Saleem’s blood group doesn’t match either of his father or mother. Which leads to his banishment by his father to Karachi to live with his army uncle General Zulfikar (played by Rahul Bose) who later takes over the country and imposes martial law.
Superb story-telling (in Rushdie’s voiceover) and magical cinematography bring to life the simultaneously troubled history of the sub-continent and the novel’s characters.
Rushdie has described his book as a `love letter to India’, but the film’s portrayal of Indira Gandhi (Sarita Choudhury) as a dictator who derailed democracy will be `a bitter letter to India’ as the establishment which may not give the film the nod to screen.
The film may sound a bit rambling and loose at times, but considering the fact that a vast 533-page book has been adapted to a 148-minute film so brilliantly is a big tribute to Deepa Mehta. And the Indian public deserves the right to watch this film.