Film review: ‘Midnight’s Children’

Salman Rushdie himself adapted the film version of his novel "Midnight's Children" Credit: Paladin & 108 Media
Salman Rushdie himself adapted the film version of his novel “Midnight’s Children”
Credit: Paladin & 108 Media

‘Midnight’s Children’
Director: Deepa Mehta
Stars: Satya Bhabha, Shahana Goswani
Rating: NR
2 (out of 5) Globes

Salman Rushdie’s breakthrough novel “Midnight’s Children” runs some 500 pages, with so many characters that Wikipedia has devoted a comprehensive page to all of them. A TV miniseries attempt in the mid-‘90s was thwarted amidst backfire from the “Satanic Verses” controversy that resulted in a fatwa on the author’s head. That would be the ideal format for an audio-visual adaptation of the book — provided one needed to be made at all — as attempting to cram all this into a single movie, even one that runs two-and-a-half hours, would reduce it to mostly plot.

That’s mostly what happens with this largely superfluous, if often pleasurable, adaptation, directed by Deepa Mehta and written by the author himself. Despite all the business going on, the novel’s basic throughline is in theory simple. It looks at the history of 20th century India from the vantage point of one family, the baton switching from grandfather to parents to our main character and narrator, Saleem Sinai (eventually played by Satya Bhabha and voiced, on the narration track, by Rushdie himself). Sinai is born at the exact time of India’s independence, a happenstance that seems to give him a magical connection to its many events — including two wars with Pakistan — as well as a link to those born at the same time, with whom he can magically confer.

These sequences, at once goofy and cheesy, are the only parts of the book that don’t translate swimmingly to cinema. But the rest is fine. This is one of the fastest dramas ever made, so intent on getting as much of the novel’s dense events into the running time that it’s always on the move, even if very little sticks. There is always some new event to get to, and the speed with which “Midnight’s Children” moves becomes as broad a joke as some of the actual broad jokes in Rushdie’s narrative.

The speed has the effect of quashing Mehta’s voice, which is a good thing. Best known for the controversial (in India, at least) “Elements trilogy” — “Fire” concerned homosexuality and “Water” women’s rights — she’s a heavy sensualist. That makes her the wrong person to do anything that involves pace. She defers completely to the material; even the lighting is bland and workmanlike. Rushdie fares better. What pleasures the film has are in his wry dialogue, often straight from the book and read aloud by the author himself. That makes this “Midnight’s Children” function best as a heavily abridged audio book with pictures. Luckily the full book is available at your local bookseller.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Is #JusticeForAvaLynn a case of bullying?

On Saturday, the hashtag #JusticeForAvaLynn became one of the trending topics on Twitter. Users circulated the above photo of 5-year-old AvaLynn, posted by her mother…

International

Terrorism could spread to US and Europe in…

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah said terrorism would soon spread to Europe and the United States unless it is quickly dealt with in the Middle East,…

National

Ex-Bitcoin official to plead guilty to Silk Road…

Bitcoin entrepreneur Charlie Shrem has reached a plea deal to resolve U.S. charges that he engaged in a scheme to sell over $1 million of…

International

China's army changes tactics to prepare for war…

Chinese President Xi Jinping has said China will spur military innovation and called on the army to create a new strategy for "information warfare" as…

Gossip

Joan Rivers on life support: Report

TMZ reports that comedian Joan Rivers has been placed on life support, "completely reliant on machines to stay alive." Rivers has been hospitalized since she…

Movies

What's new on Netflix in September

September has a supernatural theme for Netflix. UFO "documentaries" and the survivalist reality series "Doomsday Preppers" are among the new series coming to the online…

Going Out

'Friends' coffeehouse Central Perk coming to NYC —…

"Friends" is coming back for a one-off special: "The One with the Free Coffee." Warner Bros. is bringing a pop-up replica of Central Perk, the…

Movies

Interview: 'As Above, So Below' directors: 5 ways…

The fraternal directors of the found footage horror "As Above, So Below" dish on the best ways to frighten the bejesus out of audiences.

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

U.S. Soccer

5 facts about new England captain Wayne Rooney

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was named as the new England captain by coach Roy Hodgson on Thursday.

NFL

Jets vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch

A win on Thursday night at the Eagles would give the Jets a 3-1 record and just their second winning preseason under head coach Rex Ryan.

Wellbeing

VIDEO: Still not wearing sunscreen? You will after…

Sunscreen is possibly the most often repeated - and ignored - piece of skincare advice. But Thomas Leveritt took a different tactic. With a short…

Food

Twitter used to track down sources of food…

When Chicago health officials saw Twitter users complaining about local food poisoning episodes, they reached out on Twitter to those users and often ended up…

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…