Salman Rushdie’s Booker Prize – winning novel Midnight’s Children is a beautiful piece of literary work that holistically portrays India in all its shades… the dark sides, the bright sides, and everything in between, in a multiplicity of spheres ranging from the political and spiritual, to the human realm that embraces the powerful spirit of childhood. It tells the magical story of the destinies of the children born at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947 – the cusp of India’s Independence, – and has finally been adapted to film.
Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta mastered the impressive task of translating the novel’s magical realism into cinematic language, tinged with a heartfelt connection to Indian cinema tradition partly as a result of collaborating with Rushdie throughout the making of the film. MouthLondon is proud to present an interview with the celebrated Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta who ventured to realise this highly anticipated adaptation:
What inspired you to transform this incredibly complex and intricately woven story into visual form?
I remember reading the book in Delhi in 1982 and was very much impacted by it, being especially drawn to the cinematic language of the book. At that moment, of course, I never thought I would one day be adapting it, but here we are!
What was your relationship to the novel before making the film?
It is one of my all-time favourite books. Aspects of it remind me of my own youth and growing up in India which is very dear to me.
I never wanted to make X-men or anything like that. I wanted elements of magic realism to be subtle and grounded in reality. With creativity and some special effects we were able to realize elements of magic realism in a way that allows the audience, I hope, to draw their own conclusions about Saleem’s experience and reality.
What was it like working so closely with Rushdie?
It was such a pleasure working with him! I am proud of the film we’ve made, but even happier to have become closer friends. It is an experience of a lifetime. He is a true gentleman and a genius with a dry wit that is unparalleled!
India in 3 words:
Family, home, complexity.
Indira Gandhi in 3 words:
A formidable politician.
‘Be the change you want to see.’ – What change do you want to see and what is the role of the film in this?
I seek truth and clarity in the world, which I try to express through my films, including Midnight’s Children. On a personal level, I seek truth in myself and in the films I make I try to reveal the essential truth of a story and a character.
Is there a Saleem inside of you? Inside of everyone of us?
Definitely. Everyone, at one time or another, has felt like the anti-hero in their own life story. The outsider, the misunderstood, the unfortunate victim of circumstance. I think this is what makes Saleem inherently loveable.
Many thanks for your time and thought, Deepa.