Even days after viewing the cinematic masterpiece Midnight’s Children, its scenes still scroll through the mind, visions of the beauty that is portrayed in it. The colours of India are embedded in the story as it takes the viewer into the far reaches of that country, which are rarely filmed. This landscape is the perfect backdrop for Midnight’s Children, based on Salman Rushdie’s novel of the same title.
The narrative unfolds in such a way that it immediately draws the viewer into the story. The characters take on a sense of familiarity. By the time the film ends, it feels like hardly a minute has gone by. Walking from the theatre into the dark Victoria evening came as a shock, as the film pulls the audience into India and brings the events of the time to life.
The premise is fantastical: at the stroke of midnight on Aug. 15, 1947 — the night of Indian independence from Great Britain — hundreds of children are born with magical powers. Saleem Sinai (played by Satya Bhabha), the child of poor parents, has his fate changed at birth when he is switched with Shiva (played by Siddharth), the son of wealthy parents. The two boys are among the hundreds of other children born within moments of midnight. Saleem has the ability to make all of the “children of midnight” appear. These children of midnight each have their own magical power.
The narrative works through Saleem’s family’s history. Their story is set against the backdrop of boats whisking across a lake hued in greens and yellows, introducing the audience to the calm environment of India’s landscape. The story progresses through the 13 days of conflict between India and Pakistan in their territorial claims for Bangladesh.
At one point, Saleem and Parvati (played by Shriya Saran), another of the children of midnight, walk through the slums with performers around them. The acrobats performing in the streets, the colours and the music show a scene so rich in happiness it could transport the audience right out of the theatre.
Midnight’s Children provides an eye-opening glimpse of the tensions and emotions of the birth of India. Though the use of magic is distracting at times, the storyline and acting are truly absorbing — to the point that the surreal scenes could be dismissed. Director Deepa Metha gives true respect to Rushdie’s novel.
Midnight’s Children opens on Nov. 9 in Victoria at Cineplex Odeon theatres.