Review: Midnight’s Children
If Salman Rushdie is one of those writers that you'd like to have read, but without actually having to read, this adaptation provides a nice skim read through his Booker Prize-winning novel while providing non-readers with a neat critique of Rushdie's abilities as a writer.
The Children in question were those born at midnight in 1947 when India became independent. The narrator is one of those children, Saleem, and the story of his family, from 30 years before his birth to 30 year after, and the mystical bond between children born at that moment of history is, of course, intended to be that of India itself.
Midnight's Children is perhaps the one Rushdie book that is enjoyed as much as it is admired and Deepa Mehta's film just doesn't have the scope, vision or budget to do it justice.
Such picaresque tales are always difficult to translate to film and one where the story takes place over six decades is always likely to end up compressing events and characters into ciphers and snippets.
The film trundles along like a conveyor belt of pleasant diversions, none any more or less important than those that proceeded.
Rushdie wrote the script himself and the film retains his services as the narrator.
I don't know how it works spread out over 600 pages but, over the course of two and half hours, the story feels like a shameless appropriation of every Dickensian melodramatic wheeze going. There are children mixed at birth, vows of silence, amnesia, fateful meeting after decades apart, tragic misunderstandings, epic family feuds.
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As a film, it is cold and callous, the fate of a nation reduced to a series of cruel tricks and empty gimmicks, airily introduced and loftily dismissed by their creator in a few clumsy, trying-too-hard sentences.
From the film, you'd imagine Midnight's Children to be work of some Indian-born Jeffrey Archer who, just before he was to embark on the writing of Kane and Abel, had chanced upon the work of Gabriel Garcia M�rquez and thought he'd have a bash at that magic realism lark.
MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN (15)
Director: Deepa Mehta
Starring: Satya Bhabba, Shahana Goswani, Rajat Kapoor, Shabana Azmi, Ronit Roy and Siddharth
Length: 146 mins