Before starting this piece my mind was being constantly bombarded with a whole gamut of thoughts popping their heads out of here and there. That’s what happens when your mind is in proximity of a great author like Rushdie. Being a booklover myself, the very comparison of a book and its cinematic outcome seems futile to me. Then again, one of the basic human traits is that we love to analyze and discuss everything, even the most trivial ones; as if a whole possibility of ideas can be excavated that way, through admiration, through criticism, through comparison. Perhaps this primal instinct made me watch Deepa Mehta’s rendition of Rushdie timeless epic, Midnight’s Children.
One thing doing which Deepa Mehta made me immensely happy is that she let the great author compose the screenplay himself. Honestly, Rushdie himself has such an enchanting language that anybody adapting dialogues out of his lines would have appeared lustreless. Inserting his famous magical prose in the films narration, Rushdie sets high example of literature on the screen. With picturesque locations and beautiful cinematography the movie ably represents the stories of those times, the turbulent ones which the author has elucidated in his unforgettable tale of change, loss and love. As Rushdie thinks our lives begin long before birth, the movie starts with Saleem’s grandparents and proceeds to his birth at the historical hour of India’s independence. It shows how Mary, apparently a stranger completely unrelated to him, changes the first and every truth of his identity only to become its only solace forever. After she performs the job of upturning the divide between rich and pure in one bizarre inspiration gathered through her loving Joe, begins the journey of a boy and a country entangled at birth and in destiny. The movie stays true to the book and its vastness. Rushdie’s original work appears to me more like a panorama as a fateful one paves his way through it. The movie inherits this trait moving time and again, through time, through nations following the footprints of our protagonist. It falls in pace, especially in the first half and often tends to sympathize with the turns of fate Saleem faces at different stages of life. Some important characters like Shiva, meant to complement Saleem or Parvati gets overshadowed as the movie to some extent becomes the detailed narration of one man’s journey and his dramatic escapades from several disasters, both personal and national. One might even complain about its duration that seems a bit too long. However being an offspring of Rushdie the movie ends with a promise and lets us know what is alive, what is to be taken care of. It is this motivation that satisfied me and many others I guess.
Midnight’s Children, both in movie and in book, is a drama, is a satire. It is like a gradual revelation of the underlying futility beneath the garb of relations, family and society. The ridiculous aftermath of tragic wars which achieves nothing but never-ending tragedy and destruction, the ephemeral ties that we once knew to be true, the transience that infects everything which might make any sense to us gets rooted deeply into you, through this. After a point it raises in me a doubt that has been subconscious for long I presume. Perhaps we are not living enough life, perhaps being stuck in the timelessly changeless norms of society, of education, of convention we are contributing to an enormous social gaffe. Perhaps we are forgetting and thereby incinerating the real promises we once made, to each other, to life, to dreams, once, like they did to those Midnight’s Children, murdering them under the pretence of a false excuse of an ‘emergency’ that the society needed to meet. In the sheepish security of our banal life perhaps there remains too little a possibility of truth, one that is solemn and real. Perhaps we are not seeing enough time. Instead we are drowning, crippled and helpless, with the nation itself. But like a great author Rushdie infuses hope in us after the latent feeling of hopelessness. Even in times of wretched houses, affected by battles and fatal despair we move on, forward, tirelessly….. Not everything can be set right after a calamity, after the end of time. Then again we are left behind with a few survivors and old memories; out of these we try to make new ones. In the end, we hope to be with someone and say like Rushdie,
~“Great things were expected of us both. The truth has been less glorious than the dream. But we have survived and made our way. And our lives have been, in spite of everything, acts of love.”~