Satya Bhabha, left, and Shriya Saran in "Midnight's Children." (Noble Nomad Pictures )
There’s no lack of cinematic ambition in “Midnight’s Children.”
Adapted from Salman Rushdie’s 632-page novel about children switched at delivery and the coinciding birth of modern India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the movie was filmed in 64 different locations and runs 2-1/2 hours. But within so much sprawl — the film covers 30 years — director Deepa Mehta (“Water”) believes there’s a very personal story.
“It’s about politics. It’s about art. But mostly for me it’s about family,” Mehta said Saturday morning after her film’s world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival.
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Complicated enough that the film’s press notes include a map and a family tree listing 18 people, “Midnight’s Children” is largely focused on the separate and unequal lives of Saleem and Shiva, who are born near the stroke of midnight in 1947, just as India becomes independent from Britain.
A hospital nurse, believing the revolutionary idea “Let the poor be rich and the rich be poor” hands Shiva’s well-to-do parents the infant Saleem, while giving Shiva to the single and penniless father of Saleem, whose wife died in labor. The cast is headed by Satya Bhabha, a veteran of “The Good Wife” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” who plays the adult Saleem.
Owing to the timing of their birth, the children (among hundreds of others born at the same time) each have magical powers, which Mehta juxtaposes against the political turmoil in the region, where promises of a better tomorrow go largely unfulfilled.
Rushdie, who adapted his book for the screen, said it was a complicated transformation but that he hoped he had preserved the book’s essence. “I’ve written this book so many times,” the author said, referencing an earlier stage adaptation. “I’m not doing it again.”
Producer David Hamilton, who is Mehta’s business and life partner and helped bankroll the production, is hopeful the many people who embraced Rushdie’s novel will similarly smile on the movie, which is looking for a theatrical distributor.
“For some strange reason,” he said, “I feel very calm about it.”
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