“While writing the passage it didn’t occur to me that I will have to speak in the film. Deepa tried two actors and then decided I should give the narration. It was kind of flattering, but it also made me nervous. I told her that if it embarrassed me than I have the right to fire myself,” said celebrated author Salman Rushdie here on Thursday evening.
He was referring to his association with the new film which has been adapted from his Booker Prize-winning novel Midnight’s Children which was written three decades ago.
Mr. Rushdie, who took two years to finalise the script before presenting it to seasoned film-maker Deepa Mehta, has given a voice-over for the film. He even had a say in the selection of Satya Bhabha, the lead British actor who plays Saleem Sinai in the film.
“As for Picture Singh, I called up Kulbhushan Kharbanda,” he said. The veteran actor came over to Sri Lanka where the film was made.
Kulbhushan had broken his legs, but still he went to Sri Lanka to shoot. Despite the pain, Kulbhushan shot all his scenes. “He even danced for one of the scenes. He is such a consummate professional! He was the most charming, but completely petrified of snakes,” said Deepa.
Praising Deepa, Mr. Rushdie said what was required of her was incredibly demanding. She had to do 100 days of shooting with 12 principal actors and other artistes and elephants and cobras.
The collaboration between the Canadian film-maker and the gifted writer was preceded by a healthy discourse. “We shared the same vision. Salman is incredible in the cinematic sense. We decided to write the narrative. Two weeks later, we exchanged our pieces of paper and found that almost all points were identical. We are on the same page,” said Deepa at their interaction with the media here on Thursday.
Noting that the script went on evolving over a period of two years, Mr. Rushdie said: “At the final stage we wanted a narration. We felt a narrative structure was needed to make the story clear.”
Explaining how she succeeded in persuading the celebrated author to collaborate with her, Deepa said: “I asked Salman who had the rights for his book. He said he had the rights. Salman was a tough negotiator. He sold the rights of his book for one dollar!”
On the controversy surrounding the book when it was released in the country, Salman said: “Then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had instituted a law suit over a sentence in which I had written that Sanjay Gandhi had blamed her (Ms. Gandhi) for the death of his father. It was also published in newspaper articles. I felt nothing wrong.”
Finally, Mr. Rushdie agreed to get the offending portion deleted. “We did not want her to bring a series of actions.”
The film, passed by the Central Board of Film Certification, is awaiting release across the country on February 1.