“Born in the hour of India’s freedom. Handcuffed to history.”
At the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, as India declares independence from Great Britain, two newborn babies are switched by a nurse in a Bombay hospital. Saleem Sinai, the illegitimate son of a poor woman, and Shiva, the offspring of a wealthy couple, are fated to live the destiny meant for each other. Their lives become mysteriously intertwined and are inextricably linked to India’s whirlwind journey of triumphs and disasters.
From the unlikely romance of Saleem’s grandparents to the birth of his own son, Midnight’s Children is a journey at once sweeping in scope and yet intimate in tone. Hopeful, comic and magical – the film conjures images and characters as rich and unforgettable as India herself.
On the Making of Midnight's Children: Salman Rushdie
Deepa Mehta and I agreed to work together to make a film of Midnight’s Children on June 9th, 2008. I was passing through Toronto on the North American publication tour for The Enchantress of Florence and had dinner with Deepa on my one free evening. She asked me who had the rights to Midnight’s Children; I replied that I did; she asked me if she could film it; I said yes. It was as simple as that.
Four and a quarter years later, the film of the “book that was impossible to film” is finally finished, and I've had quite an education in what it actually takes to get a film made. I've learned, for example, that when some potential financial backers tell you that they totally adore your book, they 100% love your script, they worship Deepa, and they are totally committed to helping us get our film made, this is what they mean: “Hello.”
Over the years, before Deepa, David Hamilton and I started on our journey together, more than one attempt to film Midnight’s Children had foundered. There are so many ways a film can fail to get made. Consequently, I've developed a great respect for anyone who gets any film made and puts it out there. I've also come to feel -and I am not ordinarily a superstitious or mystically inclined individual -that it was right that those earlier attempts to film my book failed, so that this one could succeed. One might almost use the word “karma.”
Learn how to qualify for a FREE pass to a private screening of Midnight's Children Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012 in Mississauga! Click HERE for details.
I'm happy that we were able to retain complete creative control of the project and to make the film that Deepa and I wanted to make. Nobody told us how to write it, cast it, shoot it or cut it, so there's nobody else to blame, and that's exactly the way we both wanted it to be.
Years earlier, Hanif Kureishi had told me of his happy collaboration with Stephen Frears on My Beautiful Laundrette, and Paul Auster had said much the same about working with Wayne Wang on Smoke and Blue in the Face. I had long hoped that I might some day encounter a filmmaker with whom I could have such a close, happy, fruitful working relationship. Deepa Mehta was the answer to that dream.
From our first script meeting, we found we were almost uncannily of one mind about how to approach the adaptation. When I suggested dropping the novel's “frame narration” in which the protagonist, Saleem, tells his story retrospectively to the “mighty pickle woman” Padma at the Braganza Pickle Factory, Bombay -dropping it because it was too “literary” a device which, on film, would constantly break the audience's emotional engagement with the characters -Deepa said, “I was going to suggest that but I thought you wouldn't like it.” And when I showed her my first list of scenes we needed to include to make it a true adaptation of the novel, she produced her own list, and the two were almost identical.
We did much of the casting together in Bombay, and even when we weren't in the same place at the same time we discussed actors together, watched clips of their work, grew excited about some and rejected others. When Deepa thought of the then relatively unknown Satya Bhabha for the lead role she sent him to meet me and only after both of us had seen, in him, the sweetness and vulnerability we were looking for, did Deepa formally offer him the role. We met with a number of Bollywood titans, to whom I had to “narrate” the film in their homes and even in their stretch limousines; but we agreed, in the end, to avoid casting those Bombay ultra-stars who were unfamiliar with working as part of an ensemble cast. Instead, we chose wonderful actors, highly acclaimed wherever Indian films are seen, who left their egos at home and gave us their all.
It has been an extraordinary experience to watch my novel brought to life by so many talents working in harmony. Dilip Mehta's production design, with its meticulous eye for period detail, re-created the world of Midnight’s Children, much of it drawn from my own childhood memories, so vividly and accurately that there were moments when I gasped -see, there was my father's old Rolleiflex! And look, there were my grandmother's ferocious geese! Giles Nuttgens's magnificent camera photographed a world that was both epic and intimate, which was afterwards given rhythm and shape by Colin Monie's editing; Nitin Sawhney's score lifted scene after scene to new levels, adding layers of emotion; and above all Deepa Mehta's kindly, ferocious direction orchestrated it all and made a film that's true to the spirit of the original novel, but that also, I think, possesses its own authority, and establishes itself as a work of art in its own right.
And now it's done, and it's for others to judge what we did. This is the gamble of art: to make the work you want to make and then offer it to its audience, and to hope that it will touch them. When that happens, with a book or film, it's the best feeling in the world.