Rating: 1.5/5 stars (One-and-a-half stars)
Star cast: Satya Bhabha, Shriya Saran, Siddharth, Ronit Roy, Rahul Bose, Shabana Azmi, Soha Ali Khan, Seema Biswas, Rajat Kapoor, Anupam Kher, Sarita Choudhary, Shahana Goswami, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Darsheel Safary.
What’s Good: The cinematography; the music; some performances.
What’s Bad: The lead actors’ performances; the befuddled screenplay that does no justice to the book; bad characterizations.
Loo break: More so in the second half.
Watch or Not?: Watch it only for the visual artistry; otherwise the magic is missing in this one.
The story starts off quite a few generations before our hero makes an appearance. Aadam Aziz (Rajat Kapoor) gets married to the daughter of Ghani (Anupam Kher), Naseem (Shabana Azmi). After their daughter Mumtaz’s (Shahana Goswami) unsuccessful marriage to Nadir Khan, she falls for the businessman Ahmed Sinai (Ronit Roy) and changes her name to Amina. The house that the newlyweds move to is often visited by a street singer named Wee Willie Winkle (Samrat Chakrabarti) and his wife. As fate would have it, both the women give birth to baby boys in the same hospital, exactly when India gains independence. One born to a life of luxury, the other with no other option but to trudge the road of poverty.
But then fate intervenes in the form of the nurse Mary (Seema Biswas) who swaps the babies after she interprets a warped version of her Communist boyfriend’s ramblings. As a result, Saleem Sinai (Darsheel Safary) grows up as the cynosure of his father’s eyes, while Shiva ends up begging with his father. There’s more: the children who were born at midnight on 14th August 1947 have special abilities with Saleem having the power to contact all of them telepathically. While Saleem tries to get them to convene for a greater cause, there’s no end to Shiva bullying him and trying to take over. When a chance blood test reveals that Saleem is not the son of his parents, he is packed off to Pakistan to stay with his aunt Emerald (Anita Majumdar) and her husband General Zulfikar (Rahul Bose).
Now grown up, Saleem (Satya Bhabha) can still not stand up to Shiva (Siddharth), who in turn has just gotten more aggressive and bitter. Saleem returns to his parents in Karachi with his sister Jamila (Soha Ali Khan) now a famous singer, but his father distant as ever. Unable to bear the guilt, Mary confesses the swapping. After a severe bombing, Saleem finds himself in Bangladesh, and then in Delhi in the warm comfort of another midnight child, Parvati (Shriya Saran).
But fate has more in store for these midnight’s children.
Midnight’s Children Review: Script Analysis
Salman Rushdie may be the stalwart of magic realism when it comes to books, but you can’t say the same about his skills on the big screen. The adaptation of his Booker Prize winning novel with the same title does not work. One of the reasons is that the movie delves into Saleem’s ancestors needlessly. The narrational flaws seep into the film so much that the entire parallel of the lives of the midnight children and the two countries born/torn at the same time is lost in the whirlwind of characters who already take too much time to establish themselves on screen.
The dialogues seem more apt for a book than for a movie.
Midnight’s Children Review: Star Performances
The major flaw was with the casting of the lead actor Satya Bhabha as Saleem Sinai. Timid could have been understandable, but Satya’s performance borders on effeminate and bad. Shriya Saran keeps him company in the bad acting department as Parvati the witch. Extremely tanned, Siddharth keeps your hopes high in his villainous role as Shiva though his screen time is inadequate. Ronit Roy is excellent as Ahmed Sinai: the doting and brutal father comes unbelievably easily to him. Rahul Bose is incomparable as General Zulfikar. Don’t miss the scene when he announces his bride-to-be!
Shabana Azmi only gets to throw a fit in her small role as Naseem while Soha Ali Khan is left with precious little as Jamila. The veterans Seema Biswas, Rajat Kapoor and Anupam Kher breeze through their roles as Mary, Aadam and Ghani respectively. The role of Prime Minister cheekily goes to Sarita Choudhary’s able hands. Shahana Goswami exceeds expectations as Mumtaz/Amina. Kulbhushan Kharbanda comes as a cute surprise package as Picture Singh. Darsheel Safary is good as the young Saleem.
Midnight’s Children Review: Direction, Music & Technical Aspects
This round does not go to Deepa Mehta. An interesting novel gets turned into noise with half-developed characters racing to a garbled finale. The complex story gets no justice with her. The children coming together with Saleem looks more like a creepy scene out of a sequel of The Sixth Sense when it should have been more like a precursor to X-Men.
Dilip Mehta’s production design is good, but inverted swastikas on the houses in Agra speak of lazy research. The saving grace is Giles Nuttgens’ cinematography which peeks through netted fans, brightly lit cities and offer a palette of incredible colours on screen. Nitin Sawhney rescues a bit with his slow, caressing music.
The bits and pieces pasted from recent footage to depict India’s independence celebration stick out like a sore thumb. The subtitles needed more work. When Shiva hisses “Saali…” at Parvati in Hindi, the subtitle reads “Slut”. No marks for Colin Monie’s editing.
Midnight’s Children Review: The Last Word
Midnight’s Children is a movie that gets lost in its translation on the big screen. Catch this one only if you’re big on art and a fan of Rushdie.
Midnight’s Children Trailer
Midnight’s Children released on 1st February, 2013.
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