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Having read the novel a few years ago, went and watched it at the London Film Festival. As much as I wanted to love it, it didn't blow me away. The pluses: The acting was good with a good enough cast. Satya Bhabha, Rajat Kapoor, Shahana Goswami and some others (Seema Biswas, for example) were terrific. Shriya, Siddharth, Soha Ali Khan, the usual crowd that you see in many recent Hindi/Tamil films, did their best and I couldn't really find too much fault with them, though I've seen them play the same characters in other films. The story itself is quite powerful The locales were well chosen and you could sometimes feel the vibe of Partition. The minuses: The music (background score) was staid. The screenplay and adaptation to the medium seemed to be the crux of the problems, though. Deepa Mehta (and Rushdie himself) seemed to stick to the book too closely, and weren't very adventurous. At many times it was pure narration, which seems a bit lazy as an adaptation. The film was also 2.5 hours long meaning they left out nothing at the cost of making it a bit boring. Everything was so literal that they lost out on the magic of the writing. Still a normally good film it will typically be marked controversial even though it really isn't. I was just hoping for some distinctiveness and style.
With Rushdie having written the screenplay and being heavily involved,
comments about faithfulness to the book are moot; also, the book is
quite stylised and far too dense with detail to be easily converted.
So the biggest problems are thus:
* Technical atrocities
* Clichés layered on thick
* Terrible comedic timing
Firstly, the camera work is all over the shop. Hand-held DSLRs are wonderful bits of technology, but camera shake at certain moments of action is confusing, and a bit shoddy. It doesn't help the pace of the film, which changes at strange intervals.
Secondly, the compositions are banal. It's like they used iStockPhoto for storyboarding, and stuck every visual cliché about India into the shots.
Thirdly, there are moments in the film ripe for black comedy where there is none, and moments where comedy is just jarring. If you're going to mess with established concepts in the audiences' minds, it had better mean something. There is far too much throwaway material in the film.
And it's a long one, at 146 minutes, and could have been much shorter, with more energy, better pace, and of higher quality throughout. To the film's credit, there are production elements very well done; the use of children and animals, you'll be startled to hear, are handled brilliantly. But it's not really enough. It may be just that Salman Rushdie would have been better supervising the screenplay rather than writing it himself, and the film could use a complete re-edit, but it is what it is.
A satisfactory (not great) adaptation of a Literary Masterpiece! This
might be Deepa Mehta's most ambitious film till date, but not her best
The sets, the cinematography and the acting are superb; these are the main plus points for the movie. The author (Salman Rushdie) himself does the narration, which gives an intimate feel. The movie's splendid cast is truly fine; with so many experienced actors being a part of it. Shahana Goswami, Seema Biswas and Darsheel Safary truly stand out.
The movie could have been much better if a few things could have been avoided. First and the primary one being, she broke the first rule of novel adaptations - never let the original author adapt his own book. This causes the screenplay to be flabby, and sometimes overstretched. He struggles to incorporate most of his teeming subplots; the result is that it becomes too difficult to find a narrative focus.The editing and the background score could have been better. The characters seem a little underdeveloped and fail to make an emotional connection. And the screenplay fails to soulfully blend the supernatural realism with the historic political sweep of the story.
The Book might be 'Booker of Bookers', but the movie fails to reach that height. It's still a satisfactory watch for all the book's fans and lovers of unusual cinema.
Only occasionally does a movie portray a culture in a time and place that truly succeeds in giving you a sense of what it was like there. I think of Like Water for Chocolate for example. I was totally blown away by this film's ability to somehow transport me back to India, capturing all the craziness, the colours, the confusion, the sensibilities.... I only spent six weeks there but my son who worked there for a year and a half agreed with me. I think that it is a very unusual film for western viewers. The symbolism is so important and rich. We are not watching individuals at all but characters who represent elements of the country that the writer and director are passionate about. The pace and length is absolutely essential to get the feel of how vast the story is. The camera-work is breathtaking, the music is absolutely authentic, I felt that I could even smell India again. I noticed that the reviews by western critics were mostly negative while those from India were the opposite. If you want to enjoy this film, leave your western film expectations at home and come with an openness to a different way of seeing, learning and experiencing. I will encourage everyone I know to treat themselves to this wonderful film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I watched Midnight's Children today. Salman Rushdie's book is one of my
all-time favorites and I went into the theater with unabashed
excitement and even a bias in the favor of the movie I was yet to
Most people will find the movie interesting; I doubt that many would label it 'great'. Even when you make the allowance that it is hard to recapture the magic of a great book on celluloid, it is easy to see that the task Deepa Mehta set herself was near-impossible to achieve. Salman Rushdie's book is a sprawling tale of magic-realism that weaves many incidents together on a large canvas. The attempt to replicate it in a two-hour plus film necessitates a jerky journey that hurries from one incident to the other, just managing to retain seamless coherence. In some ways the movie is like life itself you know that there would be an ending though not every peak and trough clearly point in that direction.
There is also the problem of depicting magic-realism on this medium. The story is so inextricably intertwined with India's post-Independence history that one begins to seek fidelity in every detail. And not only does the film give accuracy a short shrift; the surrender by Pakistani troops comes across as a minor function at a school with the Indian General dressed indifferently, Major Shiva is not only a war hero (and one who appears during the surrender ceremony and in the presence of his Generals with his cap carelessly shoved under the shoulder flap) but is also in-charge of demolitions of slums and hovering around the country's Prime Minister. The movie's many switches to 'magic' are somewhat less than credible. To be fair to them, this is a 'flaw' that the makers perhaps could not have escaped it is one thing to see magic in, say, Harry Potter where all else is magic too and thus very much 'acceptable' to the subconscious and quite another to be confronted with bits of sudden magic when one has recently settled down to realism. I must point out that I had not felt this disconnect when I had read the book, some three decades ago. In the movie there are two completely contrasting tastes competing for the viewer's palate with the obvious outcome.
Before I go any further, I recommend the movie both to those who have read the classic and those who have not. The experience for the two groups will be absolutely disparate, I suspect!
Most of the performances are good and Seema Biswas as the guilt-ridden nurse who starts it all by switching babies is noteworthy. But both the redoubtable Anupam Kher as the father and Rahul Bose as a Pakistani General are forgettable caricatures.
The point about the destinies of India and Pakistan being inseparable comes at you, loud and clear. And in his voice-over Salman Rushdie underscores the point in the end that our Republic has not kept all the promises that were made at the stroke of freedom.
Perhaps, when we are seized by joy and optimism, such becomes the nature of promises we humans often make to ourselves.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I would be rightly regarded as a Philistine to criticise a book that
has won the Booker Prize. However this is a film, not a book, and so it
has to play by different rules.
To start with the positives, it is brilliantly filmed and acted. It was an interesting family narrative, until Saleem started hearing voices. Even then there is a good film in there showing Indian/Pakistani attitudes and history. It might even have worked without the fantasy elements, though it would have to change its title.
I recognise that the fantasy elements are supposed to show that the ideals that were born at midnight before Independence Day were personified by Saleem and the other children. Their experiences show how the the ideals were destroyed. Even so, it didn't work for me, who prefers a narrative to be told straightforwardly.
This isn't just a lack of imagination on my part; it is because a film can't contain as much as a book, and this limitation negates the book's allegorical ambitions. There is less time to show why the children exist and what they experience. Consequently the allegory becomes peripheral, even an annoyance, when there is so much reality to include.
Finally, I may be dim and/or too literal, but I can't see how the family nose was passed on to Saleem from his grandfather, when he was the son of Vanita and Methwold. Is that part of the fantasy?
As I sat through the final gala event of the Indian film festival in
Los Angeles, I witness a sea of NRI theatrics to promote and celebrate
there film communities beloved cinematic achievements. It is there
night to celebrate two of finest exports of not so artistically
talented community of Indian Americans in North America. 'Midnight's
children' is the movie they are trying to celebrate today. I am saying
trying because unfortunate as it may be this one has turned out to be
Based on the celebrated novel of the same name by Salman Rushdie the movie version is staunchly conservative as it decidedly sticks honest with the book's narrative. May be Mr. Rushdie did not wish to tinker anything to his beloved book and he is entitled to do whatever he wishes to with its film version. Unfortunately for the audience, Mr. Rushdie along with Miss Deepa Mehta has served something that is too much to consume in approximately two and half hour of the films running time. The movie has a life trajectory beginning with main character Salim's grandfather's love story in British India Kashmir in 1917 and ends in Independent India's Mumbai in the seventies with Salim's young son. In between the movie is a mess of character's coming in and out of the movie with break neck speed.
The film is fable and a tribute to the Nehruvian (Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's style of politics) India's broken secular promises. Salim is a boy born at the stroke of midnight of India's Independence from British occupation. He is supposed to be the son of Indian Muslim family but is actually the son of a local Mumbai street singer who had affair with a British gentleman during his empire's final days. The street singer dies during child birth. The hospital nurse Mary, because of her social beliefs regarding the nation's so called Independence, decides to switch the newborn son of the poor street singer to the rich born kid of a Muslim couple.
The destinies of the two new born are not only entangled by the switch but also with the gift that they possess along with every other children who are born on the stroke of midnight with a new born nation with promises of its richly diverse population.
Each of those new born children are metaphor for the nation's promises of what it can achieve if those natural gifts are used effectively for better means. They all possess different powers with Salim being able to telepathically communicate with each one of the Midnight's Children. While the couple's real kid who ends up with the husband of the street singer is named Shiva who possesses the powerful destructive powers, while Parvati is a magician who is destined to be Salim's soul mate. Salim's destiny is forever bonded with the nation of his birth and hence we are taken to a journey through modern Indian history.
The source material for the film is a literary classic, so there is no doubt that Miss Mehta has been brought down by the wait of expectations. She gave no space for any character development and the second rate cast does not do any favor to the films flow. Unfortunately, the worst of the lot is the main lead Satya Babha who plays the grown up Salim. A small actor in American sitcom, Satya did not have any facial expression or emotions that could light up even the most well written scenes. He fails to carry the film on his shoulders and makes it a stretch for the audience to continue with the film. The only noteworthy and perfect though stereotypical performance is Seema Biswas's Miss Mary.
Some of the best parts of the novel is the Bangladesh war and Indira Gandhi's emergency days. Unfortunately in the movie version no sense of history is evoked during those sequences and to those who may have very scant knowledge of those events may remain disillusioned.
Miss Mehta mentioned during her introductory speech; how Mr. Rushdie got annoyed when some audience member at Toronto film festival compared the film with Forrest Gump. Even I would be annoyed. Forrest Gump maintained a smooth flow even with its long generational trajectory and allowed character development by concentrating on only the main character rather than his entire family tree. But Midnight's Children ends up becoming a fast paced narration of the novel that deserved a better movie version.
Mr. Rushdie and Miss Mehta spoiled a perfect opportunity to create a memorable journey through modern Indian history and placed this cobbled screen adaption as footnote in their respective careers.
I was fortunate enough to get tickets to watch an early screening of
'Midnight's Children' at the BFI London Film Festival. In the wake of
several adaptations (Cloud Atlas, Silver linings playbook, Life of Pi)
I wasn't really expecting much out of Midnoght's Children in
When I first saw the trailer I wasn't thoroughly impressed. The acclaimed novel by Salman Rushdie is my favorite book of all time (Booker of Booker prize) and I had a hard time believing a film adaptation would come remotely close to the brilliance of the novel. I didn't want to watch the movie like a father that doesn't want to believe his son is doing drugs.
Thankfully, my son isn't doing drugs, and the movie isn't as bad as I expected. The cinematography is pretty good and the acting, which relied on Asian actors, is very good. I would have enjoyed a better soundtrack - sometimes the music felt eerily like b-quality Bollywood. There are also some scenes that could have been edited better - but I'm not in the movie business so what do I know? Big chunks of the novel are left out but I guess that's normal considering there always have to be some trimming here and there when transforming a novel into a film.
Overall great movie that doesn't disappoint fans of the novel. Sure, it could have been better - but hey, in this day and age, what couldn't be better?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Deepa Mehta, alluring 63 year old Canadian based Indian director has been married four times and is still going strong (at getting married). The 2012 edition of the Los Angeles festival of Indian Film closed shop on Sunday. April 14 with a brace of films on successive evenings by two of the best known Indian woman directors, Mira Nair and Deepa Mehta, both living outside of India. The films in question were respectively Nair's recent "Reluctant Fundamentalist" and Mehta's newly minted "Midnight's Children" based on Salman Rushdie's latest novel of the same name. The former is a treatise on Terrorism Paranoia leading to the unwitting (i.e.,"reluctant") creation of a terrorist in the wake of 9/11 hysteria, while the Mehta opus, shown here as a Sneak Preview, is a somewhat mystical tale of two boys, one from a rich family, the other from a poor one, born at midnight, on the very eve of Indian independence in August 1947, but consciously switched as an act of protest by a hospital nurse (Seema Biswas). Because this was a sneak preview full reviews are held in abeyance until the end of the month. For the moment what can be said is that the film rambles through the main events of Indian history since Partition with lots of metaphysical spin. Being a prestige film both from the point of view of director and writer the predominantly Indian audience viewed it with proper respect giving it a round of subdued applause that was more polite than appreciative at the end. Director Mehta introduced the film personally but did not stick around for a Q and A afterward. (PS: The film was a mishmosh that went nowhere -- a disappointment considering the expectations going in ...) Deepa Mehta is known for handling touchy subjects and the references in this film to Indira Gandhi, focusing on her suspension of democratic institutions during the State of Emergency (June '75 to March '77) were particularly objectionable to certain elements of India's majority Congress party. Ms. Mehta is best known for her Fire, Earth and Water trilogy all of which addressed controversial aspects of Indian society such as child marriage, prohibition of widow remarriage, and lesbianism, and were critically acclaimed world wide. The current film, however, can only be seen as a major letdown from a major Indian director. Hopefully this resourceful lady will soon have more cinematic ammunition in the folds of her colorful saris.
Salman Rushdie's epic novel was published in 1981 but it was not until
2003, when I was on a holiday in India, that I read this ambitious and
challenging work. It has taken until 2013 - ironically the same year as
the film version of another Booker Prize novel with an Indian theme,
"The Life Of Pi" - to reach the big screen. One can understand why,
because the span of Rushie's book is enormous - so many characters and
so many events over a period of 60 years - and the style is so special
- his own version of magical realism - that it was clearly a huge and
But it largely works. Obviously the film has to be more accessible and the material more manageable, but the cinematography (it was shot in Sri Lanka) and the music (the original score is Nitin Sawhney) are wonderfully atmospheric additions to the story. Immense credit must go to Rushdie himself who wrote the screenplay (as well as acting as narrator), since it cannot have been easy to simplify his own long (460 pages) and rich text, but the result is a film that is immensely faithful to both the narrative and the tone of the novel. Director Deepa Mehta - another Indian now living abroad (Canada) - has crafted a grandiose tale that is as far from Bollywood as Hollywood which means that sadly it will not have a huge audience in any continent.
Clearly the film has been made with a lot of reverence for the novel and the nation, but it lacks pace and heart. The children of the title are those born in the first 24 hours of India's independence at midnight on 17 August 1947 and Rushdie's fantastical invention is to give these children different special powers. As a film, so many characters and so much history means that there are no real stand-out performances (indeed some of the acting is weak) and the real star of the movie is India itself - an exotic charmer who promised so much and has disappointed so much.
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