A solid, middlebrow adaptation of Salman Rushdie's love-letter to India
Salman Rushdie's Booker Prize-winning novel is a love letter to India, forgiving its flaws and celebrating its hopes. Deepa Mehta's meandering, soft-centred screen version favours sentimental soap-opera but gradually gains in emotional power as it builds into a moving account of a man whose life reflects all the growing pains of a newly independent nation.
Rushdie provides the wry narration that is lightly spread over an undeniably handsome-looking film that stretches from Kashmir and Agra in the 1940s to Karachi, Dacca and then New Delhi in the 1970s. The story of lives ‘handcuffed to history’ focuses on Saleem Sinai, one of the children born on the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, the very moment that India declared its independence from British rule. When he is born in Bombay, a well-meaning nurse swaps him with Shiva, the offspring of a wealthy couple. Their lives remain intertwined through personal heartache and political upheaval that shapes India and Pakistan during the years of conflict, civil war, corruption and division.
The film touches upon significant historical events but Mehta seems more drawn towards the heart-tugging emotions of Saleem's journey rather than the bigger picture. The magic realist elements of the Rushdie story are underplayed, including the telepathic connection between all the midnight children. The fraught relationships between fathers and sons and the hope of redemption through a future generation are the themes that emerge with the greatest resonance. Satya Bhabha as the adult Saleem brings a good deal of charm and vulnerability to his character and is surrounded by a solid ensemble cast. Solid may ultimately be the best word for this pleasing, middlebrow adaptation of Rushdie's ‘unfilmable’ book.
Selected release from Wed 26 Dec.