Verdict: 4 / 5
As with the majority of Indian films, Midnight’s Children is an epic display of colour, light and sound. The film is commanding, striking and filled with magical realism that enhances India’s ancient history, splendour, grace and mysticism.
‘Sometimes emotions are stirred into food and become what you feel; and sometimes people leak into each other like flavours when you cook’
Midnight’s Children is a film adaptation of the 1981 novel of the same name written by Salman Rushdie. The novel deals with India’s transition from British colonialism to independence and then the further partition of British India into Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. This award winning historical fiction novel was selected for the Penguin Books Great Books of the 20th Century list as well as the Best 100 English Novels Written Since 1923 list.
Saleem Sinai (Satya Bhabha) was born on the stroke of midnight on the 15th of August in 1947 at the exact moment India become an independent country. Two things happened to him at this moment that would set the course of his life and change his fate forever. Saleem was born with telepathic powers enabling him to connect and collect every other child born at midnight on the night in 1947. He was also exchanged with another boy, a rich boy, destined to take his blessing, education, family and life of prosperity. The film follows his origins, upbringing and journey into manhood in parallel to the ever changing landscape of modern India.
This film is truly an epic movie. With its sprawling storyline, its coverage of India’s history, its intricate details and its mass of characters, it could have easily been an amazing trilogy. But perhaps even that would still not have fully depicted Rushdie’s iconic novel. This film seems to cover every emotion, every economic situation and every temperament. As can be seen in the list of cast members, the story is complex and detailed but at the same time beautifully intertwined. Everyone is connected and everyone is part of a ripple effect. What also adds to the authenticity of the film is that Rushdie himself narrates the film.
It is true however that one could get so caught up in the atmosphere and structure of the film that one can lose the narrative in the telling. Although this may be more to do with the length of concentration held by the viewer rather than the fault of the director. With the director’s apparent responsibility to keep the film so close to the novel it can sometimes feel like he added too much detail and, in the process, lost the story’s ability to hook and exchange the viewer.
You have to relax into the history, culture and style of Indian cinema in order to enjoy this movie. You cannot depart half way through it and expect to know where the story is when you come back.