“It's difficult to feel entirely emotionally involved within the film, therefore unable to connect with the themes displayed...”
Based on contentious author Salman Rushdie's Booker Prize winning novel, the eponymous Midnight's Children has finally been adapted to the big screen by director Deepa Mehta, as we follow the magical journey of lead character Saleem (Satya Bhabha) through the partition of postcolonial India, however it appears that real lead character in this instance; is Rushdie himself. Writing the screenplay, producing and narrating this feature – Rushdie more than makes his presence felt in what is the first cinematic adaptation of his work.
Saleem – born on the stroke of midnight on the day of which India gained independence following 200 years under British ruling – carries somewhat of a magical gift, where he is able to mentally connect with all of the other children born at the exact same time as he, otherwise known as the 'Midnight's Children'.
Amongst those is Shiva (Siddharth), who although appearing a mere working-class contemporary to Saleem, is in fact the victim of a stolen identity, as the two babies were swapped at the hospital, as Saleem – although being the son of a hapless busker – is brought up within the upper class surroundings supposedly belonging to Shiva. In this we witness two young men struggling to find their own identities in life, thus matching that of a nation also in the same boat, as their search for individuality mirrors that of the nation at war with Pakistan, during the partition of India.
Given Rushdie's deep involvement within this film, you do get a sense of authenticity, however here is a film crying out for an objective approach, a script written by a more accomplished screenwriter. Rushdie simply doesn't know what to leave out, in a film that is certainly too long, as it takes an independent eye to see what is to be cut. Trust me – if I edited my own reviews, each one would eclipse a thousand words. The greatest example of this is the opening half an hour – although setting the scene and bring context to the independence of India - as we delve into the history of Saleem's adoptive family – it's simply too long. Stop setting the scene and bloody start it, I say.
The biggest fault with Midnight's Children, however, is the inability to portray the more fantastical, magical aspects to this story. The political side is well depicted as we do get a sense for a country, adjusting to post-colonialism, but we simply don't encapsulate the fantasy of the narrative, not feeling enchanted enough and instead, somewhat confusing. Meanwhile, the brilliantly adaptive setting of India is not used to the film's advantage, not fully portraying the vivaciousness of the vibrant nation.
You certainly can't fault the performances, it's simply the overall construction of this film that prove's to be it's greatest undoing, as the layout and emotional aspects are lacking. It's difficult to feel entirely emotionally involved within the film, therefore unable to connect with the themes displayed. There is no doubt the book is considered to be one of the finest pieces of literature of the 20th century, but the film certainly shan't be having such a prosperous effect on the 21st.