Salman Rushdie charms his audience with characteristic wit

Revisiting Midnight’s Children after 30 years and making a film script out of the work hailed as a landmark in Indo-Anglian writing was, for its star author Salman Rushdie, an attempt to “find the shining line that goes through the heart of the plot”.

“It’s not as hard as you would think,” said Rushdie, who was in the city amidst tight security on Friday to promote the film, due for a February 1 release. It was really trying to find a film that was inside the novel, just as Michelangelo chipped away from the marble “what was not the statue”, he said.

Accompanied by filmmaker Deepa Mehta and actor Shriya Sharan, Mr. Rushdie relived the experience of turning a novel into a film, with characteristic wit, good humour and spontaneity, at an event organised by PVR Films and Landmark.

That word

The word fatwa was not mentioned even once in the interaction that lasted over an hour.

It was a freewheeling conversation that encompassed all: parallels between Manmohan Desai and Mr. Rushdie (thanks to the very Bollywood-like child-swapping scene in the book and in the film), choice of actors (how Mr. Rushdie himself nearly got a role) and the one-dollar deal between Ms. Mehta and Mr. Rushdie.

Mr. Rushdie recalled the funny responses when the film was first showed in Colorado. Someone called it “Forrest Gump with brown people in it”. Someone else wondered if the writer got the idea of the plot from X Men. Considering that Midnight’s Children came first, Mr. Rushdie wondered if Forrest Gump couldn’t be seen as “Midnight’s Children with white people in it”.

‘Like a first cousin’

But he would not want too many comparisons drawn between the film and the book, and would want the film to have “its own authority as a work”. It should be seen, he said, as “bearing a close family resemblance, like a first cousin”. There have been many successful crossovers of this kind, including Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali, he said, recalling his meeting with the late filmmaker on the sets of Ghare Baire. On a nostalgic note, Mr. Rushdie admitted: “I cannot write Midnight’s Children now.”

On the other hand, the man, who in his late 20s wrote the novel, not even dreaming of the success it eventually achieved, could not write what the 65-year-old is writing now. As he reread Midnight’s Children after 30 years, there were parts that made him proud of the young man who wrote a novel “in a weird language with no white people in it”.

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