Salman Rushdie would be hard-pressed to find a more suitable director for the film adaptation of his beautifully allegorical Midnight’s Children than Deepa Mehta, best known for her Elements trilogy, which confronts traditionally repressed issues in Indian society surrounding arranged marriage, sexuality, and patriarchy. We’re excited about the idea of one of the most acclaimed voices in politically charged Indian filmmaking collaborating with the country’s most celebrated contemporary author. Winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Booker Prize, as well as the special Booker of Bookers Prize, Midnight’s Children has earned status as a modern classic, and although there’s plenty to be wary about when it comes to adapting great literary works to film, this one seems promising. Here’s a quick look (via i09) at a few clips from the forthcoming movie, set to be released this November, and how they fit into the novel’s narrative.
Midnight’s Children follows Saleem Sinai (played by Satya Bhabha), who, born exactly at midnight on the eve of India’s independence, is imbued with special telepathic powers, an exceptional sense of smell, an inordinately large nose, and a birthmarked face. He soon learns that everyone born at midnight on August 14th, 1947 possesses similar special powers, and makes use of his telepathy to assemble the children of India’s independence from across the disparate regions of the country. Here we see Saleem kissing Parvati the witch, another of Midnight’s Children whom he later marries. The choice of casting a relatively unknown actor as Saleem rather than a more celebrated Bollywood star is refreshing, and it seems Mehta accomplishes the same heartfelt and intensely personal performances as she has in her previous films.
In the scene above, Saleem’s aunt meets her future husband, General Zulfikar, who is involved in the Pakistani conflict. Following its tagline — “Born in the hour of India’s freedom. Handcuffed to history” — much of the story focuses on the migration of Saleem’s family and the turbulent political backdrop that shapes their lives. It seems Salman Rushdie has had a fairly active role in the screenwriting and production for adapting the novel, a fact that will hopefully preserve the way in which the novel elegantly weaves together personal memories and history. As he relates on the film’s website, “…much of it drawn from my own childhood memories, so vividly and accurately that there were moments when I gasped — see, there was my father’s old Rolleiflex! And look, there were my grandmother’s ferocious geese!”
One of the key departures from the book will involve cutting the more literary “frame narration” structure in which Saleem retrospectively recounts the main events of the story to his lover Padma at the pickle factory where they work. Instead, it looks like the movie will use a more straightforward retrospective narration. This scene depicts Saleem’s encounter with the conflict over the 1971 declaration of East Pakistan’s independence backed by Indian support. If the cinematography and acting in these clips is any indication of quality, Mehta’s directorial style seems like it does a good deal of justice to the elements of magical realism, political allegory, and hard-to-film literary flourishes in Rushdie’s novel.
Here are a few enticing stills from the movie:
Photo credit: midnightschildren.com