Salman Rushdie’s marvellously celebrated novel brought together India’s history and myths to tell the tale of Midnights Children. It’s no wonder they adapted the book into a feature film!
Guest Review by Meagan Pontack
In Bombay during a time of tragedy something magical happens at the stroke of Midnight on the 15th of August 1947, when India gains its unforgettable independence from the Britain. The screenplay centres around two babies that are born and connected by a secret. Mixed emotions and political rationale drives a hospital nurse to switch the two babies. The injudicious nurse believes that she was showing compassionate social engineering as she remembered the words of her communist lover “Let the rich be poor and the poor be rich”. The narrative is robust and the fantasy elements of the film keeps the viewere curious from beginning to end, as with most Indian films.
Shiva (Siddharth) is born into wealth. He is the son an affluent family. Saleem Sinai (Satya Bhabha) is born into a life of poverty as the illegitimate son of a deprived street singer and a wealthy Englishmen. The tragedy is that they now have to live each other’s lives by “mistake”.
Rushdie was involved in co-writing the script. This is clearly evident as the film follows each and every plot and subplot as in the book. The film is shot well cinematically as it shows the boys point of view on India’s growing pains and their tragic irony of being switched at birth as Saleem becomes the “rich boy” and Shiva is sentenced to a life on India’s streets. This cosmic mistake highlights the many themes of the film; tragedy, comedy, poverty, morals, wealth, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, war, magic, birth and death.
This is where the magic begins. The narrator, Saleem is gifted with super telepathic powers. It happens to be that a mystical bond is created between all 1001 children born between mid night and 1am on that historic date. Each child harbours special powers. I thought it was pretty weird that Saleem’s special power was that he was able to summon all of Midnights Children in his bedroom using only his nose. After pondering the purpose of the film, it is made evident to me that Deepa Mehta’s (Director) direction was definitely to bring together the secret and public lives of Midnights Children, who shared this mystical bond during India’s turmoil.
The film is visually stunning. However, as the film dips into magical whimsy the filmmakers make use of cheesy soft-focus film techniques. The rich culture of India and Pakistan pop out in the colourful textiles, costumes, food, elephants, parades and weddings. Aesthetically, the true essence of India’s poverty comes across in many of the scenes which pull at the hearts strings, allowing viewers to sympathize with the characters.
The beautiful cinematography accompanied the outstanding cast. I enjoyed Bollywood Actress, Shahana Goswami’s performance as she played the role of Saleems mother (Mumtaz/Amina). Her character was worth watching as she portrayed a strong woman that followed her heart. Satya Bhabha gave an outstanding emotional performance.
Overall, the film was visually pleasing but the plot felt like a mad rush as Rushdie and Mehta tried to squeeze in every storyline from the novel into the film. Cuts should have been made; I would have liked to have seen the talented cast demonstrate more character development.
Midnight’s Children was a remarkable novel, so I do understand why it would have been difficult for the filmmakers to make a few cuts. However, sometimes the simpler the story is the stronger the film and end result.