Over the next hour 1 001 other children are born and all of them are gifted with supernatural abilities. Saleem possesses the most important one – the ability to telepathically bring them all together. Fate is altered from the moment of birth and he is inextricably linked to his motherland his entire life.
The movie is visually stunning. The atmosphere of India and Pakistan is dense and almost tangible, drawing you into Rushdie’s world smoothly and believably. Rushdie, who also wrote the screenplay, does well with the dialogue, mingling humour and romance with struggle and natural gravitas. Viewers who have never read the book are sure to be in for an engaging journey that manages to be just as life-changing as the novel itself.
A few things hurt the movie, like Rushie’s bland voice-over narration and the cutting out of some of the more beloved scenes in the earlier part of the story where the hystory of Saleem’s family is beautifully presented in the novel. This problem will probably only annoy the members of the audience who have read the book, but every adaption has to suffer the book/ movie comparison and nitpicking.
All the characters are portrayed honestly by the actors: Bhabha as the adult Saleem, Shahana Goswami as his patient and long-suffering mother and Charles Dance as the charming yet dodgy Mr Methwold. As long as you ignore former Prime Minister Indira Ghandi’s fumbled inclusion near the end, Midnight’s Children is well-cast and well-paced with all the pivotal scenes holding on to their drama and narrative importance.
The thing about unfilmable novels is that they’re usually unfilmable for a reason. Some things just work better in print than they do on the big screen. Midnight’s Children, as a novel, bobs and weaves through fantasy, war, romance, politics and poverty and does so with Booker Prize-winning grace. As a movie, however, it loses some of the magic.
Midnight’s Children is a vast, nearly unbelievable tale that continues long after the last page and to distil it into less than three hours of movie time is a task similar to (to borrow one of Rushdie’s famous metaphors) “swallowing a world”.
Midnight’s Children will be in cinemas on 20 September.