'Midnight's Children' - striking epic despite its flaws

Film: "Midnight's Children"; Actors: Rajat Kapoor, Shabana Azmi, Anupam Kher, Ronit Roy, Satya Bhabha, Seema Biswas, Shahana Goswami, Siddharth, Anita Majumdar, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Darsheel Safary, Soha Ali Khan and Shriya Saran; Director: Deepa Mehta; Rating: **1/2

Deepa Mehta's "Midnight's Children" is not a well-crafted film of Salman Rushdie's Booker Prize-winning novel of the same name. Yet it captures the essence of the novel to the core.

Told through the lives of the children born at the stroke of midnight of Aug 15, 1947, especially, Salim, Shiva and Parvati, it is a multi-layered tale of destinies. It is a story of the rich, the poor and the misguided. It is fiction and fantasy delightfully wrapped within the folds of the political scenario of the three countries, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

What precedes the birth of Salim is a complex tale that is narrated in the first 45 minutes of the film. Inspired by her rebel husband's communist slogan, "Let the rich be poor and the poor, rich", the misguided paediatric nurse, Mary, deliberately switches the identity tags of the two babies as a gesture of solidarity and thereby swaps their destinies.

Moving ahead, in childhood, Salim discovers that thanks to a sneeze and the sniffles, he can hear and see all of the other 581 surviving children around the country born at the same historic day and time as he. Dubbing them as Midnight's Children, he has the power to call "conferences" in his bedroom late at night, bringing their presence together from all parts to plan the fate of the nation, including the hot-headed Shiva and pretty and mystical Parvati, the spell-weaving witch.

The three are intertwined again as adults in the film's last act when Shiva, now a ruthless military commander, and Salim, following six years of amnesia, become involved with the beautiful adult witch, Parvati against the background of Indira Gandhi's brutal emergency measures.

Rushdie's rich characters are brought to life by a strong ensemble of esteemed actors whose performances were well extracted by director Deepa Mehta. Debutant Satya Bhabha delivers a confident performance as the grown up Salim and Siddharth is the perfect foil for him as the embittered Shiva. Darsheel Safary as the young Salim is undoubtedly brilliant.

The competent Seema Biswas is charming as the misguided, guilt-ridden nurse and the catalyst for the unfolding sequence of events. Shahana Goswami smoothly conveys the poignant turmoil of the mother inadvertently caught in the cross-fire, while Ronit Roy is exacting as the frustrated businessman. Anita Majumdar also makes an impression as the hard-hearted, ambitious Emerald, alongside Rahul Bose as her military power-broker husband, Zulfikar.

Rajat Kapoor as Dr.Aziz, Salim's putative grandfather is amusing. Shabana Azmi as Rajat Kapoor's wife, Sriya Sharan as Parvati, Soha Ali Khan as Salim's sister and Kulbhushan Kharbanda as Picture Singh are wasted.

Visually, the film encompasses scenes of war, liberation, celebration, corruption, romance and mourning - all beautifully captured by cinematographer Giles Nuttgens. The visuals are brilliantly layered with Nitin Sawhney's ethereal score, making it a perfect backdrop with the mystical quality of the magic realism scenes; it is like watching a stunning canvas gradually come to life.

Even with Salman Rushdie's narration and screenplay, what probably did not work for "Midnight's Children" are the abrupt scenes. Each scene is brilliant, but in silos, disconnected with the next, making it difficult to capture and bring to life the essence of the book that combines a type of unexplained practicality.

Yet this is a striking, well-produced and thoughtfully designed epic.

Even with all its flaws, "Midnight's Children" is worth a watch. If nothing else, go and watch "Midnight's Children" to satiate your curiosity about this much-talked about novel.

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

Pietersen to miss Delhi's first game

Pietersen to miss Delhi's first game

The former England batsman will have to lead the franchise as he is out of the match against Bangalore with a finger injury. More »

Kallis, Narine star in Knight Riders’ crushing win

Kallis, Narine star in Knight Riders’ crushing win

An all-round display saw Knight Riders thump Mumbai Indians by 41 runs in the IPL-7 opener. More »

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

The court emphasised that the tainted administrator can no longer work for the BCCI. More »

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

The 38-year-old South African veteran turned it on for Kolkata Knight RIders in the opening match of IPL-7. More »

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

"Integrity is non-negotiable..." says the BCCI's interim chief ahead of Season 7 of the tainted league. More »

'If you do the wrong thing it will be found out'

'If you do the wrong thing it will be found out'

'Everyone knows what is right and what is wrong and if you do the wrong thing it will be found out' More »

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Welcome to another season of a league that many watch but few trust. More »

Johnson may quit T20s for Tests

Johnson may quit T20s for Tests

Australia's Mitchell Johnson may quit limited-overs cricket to prolong his test career with an eye on the 2015 Ashes series in England, the fast bowler… More »

There's a lot going on: Fleming

There's a lot going on: Fleming

He experienced anxious moments in the lead-up to the tournament as the courts decided on whether to suspend the franchise, he said, but stressed that the… More »

Nepal players call off boycott

Nepal players call off boycott

Thaw in relations after formation of an advisory committee that would work in tandem with the Cricket Association of Nepal. More »

Latif couldn’t work with tainted players

Latif couldn’t work with tainted players

Former Pakistan cricket captain Rashid Latif said Tuesday he turned down the job of national chief selector because he could not work with ex-players tainted… More »

We are not over-confident: Bailey

We are not over-confident: Bailey

Indian Premier League — George Bailey-led Kings XI Punjab will face Chennai Super Kings on Friday. More »

Big runs expected, with bat and ball

Big runs expected, with bat and ball

Royal Challengers Bangalore: Their main concern, once again, is the fast bowling More »

Taxing issue — BCCI hits roadblock

Taxing issue — BCCI hits roadblock

MoU between BCCI & its units to avoid double taxation delayed after a few decline to share details. More »

Black Caps pick rookie duo for West Indies

Black Caps pick rookie duo for West Indies

New Zealand selectors included two new caps in a 15-man Test squad named Tuesday to tour the West Indies, with injury-hit spinner Dan Vettori's future… More »

The stage is set for IPL-7 to start

The stage is set for IPL-7 to start

The Preview — Defending champions Mumbai Indians take on Kolkata Knight Riders More »

Srinivasan appeals to court to allow BCCI comeback

Srinivasan appeals to court to allow BCCI comeback

He was aggrieved by the allegations against him during the hearing. More »

India: cricket's Brazil

India: cricket's Brazil

They are tough to beat with a big talent base exposed to good facilities. (CYCSPL) More »

Delhi Daredevils say no to gifts

Delhi Daredevils say no to gifts

Franchises are doing their bit to refurbish the image of the tainted league. More »

Klinger on his exit from South Australia

Klinger on his exit from South Australia

Michael Klinger has revealed he felt compelled to leave South Australia after being told he would be only a fringe part of the Redbacks' plans for next season, and disputed the suggestion that he left… More »

India-Pakistan Test series likely in 2015

India-Pakistan Test series likely in 2015

The revival of Indo-Pak Test ties could take place in UAE. More »

Kohli hopes to end RCB trophy drought

Kohli hopes to end RCB trophy drought

'This time around we will hope to go few more steps ahead and actually get that trophy' More »

Gavaskar can help IPL regain glory

Gavaskar can help IPL regain glory

Apart from the foreign players a lot of behind-the-scene activity has taken place in selecting the Indian domestic players. More »

Tendulkar, Ganguly to promote soccer

Tendulkar, Ganguly to promote soccer

Leading Spanish club Atletico Madrid and former cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly are among the owners of eight franchises of a new Indian… More »