Midnight’s Children (English)
Director: Deepa Mehta
Cast: Shabana Azmi, Seema Biswas, Siddharth, Rajat Kapoor, Satya Bhabha, Shriya Saran, Soha Ali Khan, Anupam Kher, Rahul Bose
There is a secret to enjoying Deepa Mehta’s film adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children — zero expectations.
Don’t expect to see magic on screen. However, entertainment is guaranteed. We, unfortunately, have been spoiled by Ang Lee’s mesmerising translation of Yann Martel’s Life of Pi . And when you’re talking of a film adaptation of the Booker of Bookers, the baap of magic realism, scripted by the celebrated writer himself, helmed by a certified auteur with an ensemble cast, expectations are bound to be high — that is a recipe for disaster.
However, if you pretend you have just landed on earth after being in hyper-sleep for 30-odd years and one of the last books you read before boarding the Nostromo was Midnight’s Children , you are sure to be engaged with the sights and sounds of the film.
Like the book, the movie has Saleem Sinai, who is “handcuffed to history” thanks to being born on the stroke of midnight of August 15, 1947. Expansive in space and time, beginning on the banks of the Dal Lake in 1917 and onwards to Mumbai in August 1977, Midnight’s Children follows India’s colonial and post-colonial history through Saleem’s family.
The casting is spot on. Rajat Kapoor excels as Saleem’s grandfather Adaam Aziz, whose fractured love affair with Naseem sets the tragic comic tone.
Shabana Azmi is competent as usual as the indomitable Naseem.
Seema Biswas nails Mary and Siddharth is delicious as the wronged Shiva. Kulbhushan as Picture Singh, Shriya Saran as Parvati, Satya Bhabha as Saleem, Soha Ali Khan as his sister Jamila, Anupam Kher as Ghani, Rahul Bose as Zulfikar and Anita Majumdar as Emerald are all uniformly good.
The exchanging of babies brings in a dash of Salim-Javed and the young Shiva looks so much like Master Mayur in all those angry-young-man films that it is uncanny and no less enjoyable.
At 148 minutes, the film tends to drag in parts, but all the characters are likeable, and having Rushdie as narrator brings in the literary dazzle of the book.
Midnight’s Children is a fairly captivating experience.