Midnight's Children (NR)

Drama 148 May 10, 2013
By Alan Scherstuhl
One of the most beguiling of the stories knotted up in Salman Rushdie's 1981 novel Midnight's Children concerns a lovelorn doctor, his beautiful patient, and that timeless exemplar of old-world prudishness: a sheet with a hole in it. That courtship sings onscreen, too, in Deepa Mehta's adaptation of a novel stubbornly resistant to adaptation. Still, so lavish and unwieldy is the book that a film of it can't help but feel like a helpless reduction, like a bucket of water passed off as an ocean. Or, more to the point: Watching this is like seeing the highlights of Midnight's Children, one at a time, through a hole in a sheet. The doctor, Aadam (Rajat Kapoor), is the grandfather of Saleem (Satya Bhabha), the novel's narrator, a man "handcuffed to history"-- Saleem is born at the stroke of midnight the day India achieved its independence, and his life doubles the experience of his homeland. In Rushdie's novel, Saleem has hundreds of pages to chart the twining, allusive history of him, his country, and the hundreds of other children born on that midnight, all of whom seem to have superpowers and hold meetings in each others' dreams. Also, Saleem has a magic nose and is switched at birth with another baby, a boy who doomed to a life of poverty and resentment while Saleem is given the advantage of wealth. The movie, meanwhile, has just two and a half hours to cram all this in. When you're trying to allegorize some 40 years' worth of history through the experience of a super-snooted child of destiny, is it essential to open with the erotic meet-cute of his grandparents?
Deepa Mehta Satya Bhabha, Shabana Azmi, Seema Biswas, Rahul Bose, Samrat Chakrabarti, Sarita Choudhury, Charles Dance, Shahana Goswami, Rajat Kapoor, Soha Ali Khan Deepa Mehta, Salman Rushdie David Hamilton Paladin Films

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