Midnight’s Children movie reviews aren’t that great. Will you watch it in India?

Midnight’s Children movie reviews aren’t that great. Will you watch it in India?

Deepa Mehta’s Midnight’s Children finally gets an Indian distributor, but the international critics have panned it, says Cineswami

The film version of controversial author Salman Rushdie’s Booker of Booker-winning novel Midnight’s Children has finally found an Indian distributor. The film was a bit of a poisoned chalice for distributors in India thanks to both Rushdie and its director Deepa Mehta. A fatwa was issued against Rushdie after his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses was deemed to be offensive and blasphemous; and fundamentalists disrupted Deepa Mehta’s Varanasi shoot for Water for the same reason. Mehta thumbed her nose at her critics and went ahead and shot Water in Sri Lanka and earned an Oscar nomination for her pains, representing Canada in the foreign language category, not India. Rushdie remains controversy’s child, famously cancelling his appearance at the Jaipur Literary Festival earlier this year over security concerns, something that he has addressed in his new memoir Joseph Anton. Both people then are not exactly popular in the country of their birth.

PVR Pictures is the company that has chosen to sip from the chalice, after all the others shied away from it. They will release the film in India a full month after its international release on November 2. Apparently they have grand promotion plans for it and Mehta and Indian stars that feature in the film like Siddharth, Rahul Bose, Shriya Saran, Shabana Azmi, Shahana Goswami and Seema Biswas will be on hand to drum up publicity.

But is it all really worth it? The film’s global reviews have been less than enthusiastic. The length appears to be an issue. Hollywood bible Variety says: “At 149 minutes, Deepa Mehta’s sprawling, hyper-saturated adaptation of the epic Salman Rushdie classic Midnight’s Children feels like too much to take in all at once. Iconic UK newspaper The Guardian opines: “It sheds no fresh light on the material, turns and turns but with no new spin, fails to pepper the source. This is self-defeating faithfulness, which genuflects so far as to insist the audience can’t be released for some 148 minutes, and employs actors perfectly cast to the point of blandness.” The Hollywood Reporter agrees, saying: “Despite the solid work of cast and crew, the film dawdles and fails to justify its two-and-a-half-hour running time. Midnight… reaches its tender conclusion without ever achieving the emotional or dramatic heft that such an epic tale requires.”

All of the above can be dismissed as the ramblings of goras who don’t know any better about India or Indian history and culture, but alas no, most desi critics who have seen the film also agree that in the journey from page to screen, the film has been lost in translation.

Midnight’s Children’s next hurdle is getting a censor certificate. It appears that the film has some unflattering references towards a certain female former prime minister of India and these might have to be excised. Makes complete sense in the world’s largest democracy where free speech and freedom of expression is supposedly a constitutional right.

To invoke Cineswami’s inner Govinda – It happens only in India.

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  • Christopher

    A student of literature should check out the film to see the difficulty in adapting a Magical Realist novel into a film. It is a great challenge that Director Deepa Mehta and writer/screenwriter Salman Rushdie bravely undertook with care and diligence. Brave because anytime a story so close to the heart of the writer has to be reformatted it is a difficult and painstaking task.

    A student studying to be in the film industry should see the film. Study this history of India at the time. Perhaps you know it by heart. What made the writer and director so adamant about picking up the pen and saying I want to tell this story? What stories do you want to tell?

    You will not find Piggy Chops, Deepika, Sonam, Katrina, SRK, Sallu or Ranvir in the film. What you will find is wonderful mixture of talent from the many film industries that make up India, some legendary such as Shabana Azmi, Seema Biswas and Anupam Kher, Ronit Roy and some well respected talents in their own right, Siddarth, Rahul Bose and Indian cinema’s Grace Kelly- Shriya Saran, Shahana Goswami…

    Soha Ali Khan, the daughter of legendary actress Sharmila Tagore is also in this film. Yes she is sister of Saif but her mother also served on India’s Film Sensor Board until 2011 which is intriguing considering all the hoopla created of the so called controversies in the film. If Sharmila blessed her daughter’s role in the film she obviously respected the project and its mission.

    The film is a conversational piece for the country as a whole. Very rarely can a family see a film and afterwards sit down and talk about what life was like during that time. This is such a story. Grandparents have a viewpoint that might be different than their grandchildren and there is a generation that didn’t experience the Emergency or the aftermath of it.

    “Midnight’s Children movie reviews aren’t that great. Will you watch it in India?” – that is a poor statement to make. If we went by reviews we wouldn’t see half to 3/4 of the movies in Indian cinema each year. The fact that this film will be releasing in India is a major step in the right direction of free speech and should inspire future screenwriters and directors to pick up the pen and write how they feel about their country. It shows that the talent of India is much more diverse than the most popular actors in Mumbai. The global release shows that India is starting to spearhead global cinema that the world wants to see. This is also Rushdie’s love people to his country. It’s his heart and his soul as it was for Deepa Mehta who made the film. It’s the journey of a cast and crew that didn’t give up when people wanted to stop the film. It’s about the pride of being Indian and the spirit of hope that never gives up. See for yourself…

    Thank you for allowing me the space to write a comment-

    • Christopher

      I didn’t catch my type on my last paragraph. It should read:
      This is also Rushdie’s love LETTER to his country, not PEOPLE. I apologize, I thought I caught that :)

      • Christopher

        you should update this story and offer a retraction. The film has a very strong showing in London over the weekend.