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Midnight’s Children  : The Booker’s A Loser
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Friday, February 1, 2013
Deepa Mehta
Satya Bhabha, Shahana Goswami, Rajat Kapoor, Shabana Azmi, Ronit Roy, Siddharth, Shriya Saran, Seema Biswas, Darsheel Safary, Rahul Bose
Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, the incredible saga of one of the many infants born at the stroke of midnight when India was reborn a free country, is an unbelievably tiresome journey in its celluloid avatar.

The plot: Like India is tracked by the world right from its infancy, the life and growth of Saleem Sinai (Darsheel Safary as the 10-year-old and Satya Bhabha as the older one) is also significant. The adventure begins from his birth when two children are switched – slum boy Saleem is given to rich parents and he starts living a destiny which is not really his, as India also stumbles along.

In the mess, Saleem finds a gift that will make him more special. He can hear voices…voices of other such children who were born at the very same time, on the same day, and he can communicate with them. Saleem is special, like the other children of midnight who also have unique, magical powers. One of them is his sweetheart, witch Parvati (Shriya Saran), and the other one his changeling Shiva (Siddharth), destined to grow up in grime and crime.

But special powers are of no use in front of the destiny etched out for these unfortunately fortunate children.

As Saleem – and India – grow, wars ensue, deaths occur, loved ones are lost, new ones found. The lives of Saleem and the other children of midnight seem to run on a parallel course of disaster like the newly-born India.

The good:
The exceptionally good actors are a huge plus for the film, making the unbearably long 146-minute film, watchable. The two Saleems – Darsheel Safary and Satya Bhabha – and Saleem’s mother played by Shahana Goswami are the stand-out performances.

The music is decent and it goes well with the pictures of India painted on screen by cinematographer Giles Nuttgens.

The bad:
Salman Rushdie completely fails to adapt his book into an intriguing screenplay. Magical elements alternating with bitter realities made for a very amusing read but they lose their charm in the transition to the screen. The concept of possessing magic is almost comical and the allegorical significance of those powers is lost in the screen adaptation.

The pace of the movie is further hampered by the narrative style, the voice-over by Rushdie giving it the sound of a documentary.

Emotions are misplaced in the jumbled screenplay and you can’t really connect with the problems faced by Saleem. The novel concept of Saleem’s life and times juxtaposed with the country’s growth and progress, worked splendidly in the best-seller. But the thought is lost in the film until the very end when it is spelt out.

The Indira Gandhi part of the movie is the last nail in the coffin. It is tactlessly handled and loses its significance, turning almost into a clumsy comic act.

The film doesn’t match the over-hype. The misplaced identities of the main players in Midnight’s Children seem to have rubbed off on the screenplay rendering it lost and listless.

– Priyanka Ketkar
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