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Salman’s love letter to India

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INTERVIEW …Is how Shriya Saran, describes Midnight’s Children. The actor, who plays Parvati in Deepa Mehta’s adaptation of Rushdie’s iconic book, talks about the magic and madness in the making of the film

Shriya Saran is no stranger to prestigious projects. She has acted in big, fat blockbusters such as the rumbustious Sivaji: The Boss and the vaguely schizophrenic Kanthaswamy . Language has not been a barrier for the beautiful actor having acted in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Hindi films.

After crossing the ocean to Hollywood with The Other End of the Line , Shriya has appeared in a couple of other international projects and now she is ready with a certified biggie — Deepa Mehta’s cinematic adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s iconic book, Midnight’s Children . In the film, which is opening on February 1, Shriya plays Parvati, a witch born seven seconds after midnight.

Speaking of how she landed the role, Shriya says, over the phone, “I worked on Cooking with Stella , which Deepa wrote and her brother Dilip Mehta directed. I met Deepa at the Toronto Film Festival where the film premiered.”

Speaking about Rushdie’s influential book, Shriya who studied Literature at Lady Sriram College in Delhi says, “I had read the book earlier. Anyone who reads, knows Midnight’s Children is a landmark book. It was big in college. When you read in college, characters leave a strong stamp. Rushdie’s style left a deep impact; he has a very intense way of telling a story. The characters keep evolving. The book sort of tells you what Indians thought of Independence, their dreams and aspirations. The book talks of hope, nostalgia and that there always is a silver lining.”

Rhapsodising about the book, Shriya says: “My mom reads a lot. I remember intense discussions with my parents; the book helps you understand your own history. It tells what people went through post Independence. It is in many ways magical, it is Salman’s love letter to the country.”

“I read the book again, after being cast as Parvati. The second time I read the book, I concentrated on Parvati’s character and her dreams. I kept reading it again and again.” Grateful to Mehta for seeing Parvati in her, Shriya says “Deepa has this great madness and magic; she said life is full of contradictions. There were these intense workshops and I thought I would die. I survived the workshop and in the end saw Parvati in myself; I was not scared.”

In preparing for the role, apart from the workshops and the book, Shriya says she met a lady “who was born around the same time. She gave me a lot of insights”.

Shriya’s most memorable moment was when “we were celebrating 30 years of Midnight’s Children on the set and I got my copy of the book autographed by Salman”. The challenge of costuming for a film that spans decades — from pre-independent India to the Emergency fell on Dolly Ahluwalia, with Ritu Kumar designing the wedding. Shriya describes Dolly as “a fun person” and her outfits as “right for Parvati”.

The actor’s plans include “ Pavitra directed by Janardhan Maharshi, where I play a victim of society and I am also shooting for the period bilingual (Kannada and Tamil) Chandra directed by Roopa Iyer.”

Of working with women directors, Shriya says: “While women are making their presence felt in the world of cinema, we need more women on the film set.”

Mini Anthikkad-Chibber

While women are making their presence felt in the world of cinema, we need more women on the film set

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