Midnight’s Children

Midnights Children an Alternative Review

Midnights Children PosterWe were lucky enough to catch Deepa Mehta’s adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s novel Midnights Children at the London Film Festival, and Martin Cawley loved it. Here is his review if you didn’t get a chance to read it.

But now with the release being closer, we had the chance to send our intrepid guest blogger and all round funny guy Sujoy Singha to have another look at he had quite a different take on the movie.

Here is Sujoy’s review who is also know as @9e3k on twitter and his wonderful Gif’s have been featured all over the interwebz:

Deepa Mehta’s latest feature, Midnight’s Children, is based upon the Man Booker prize winner book of the same name by Salman Rushdie. Rushdie has written the screenplay, and is also the narrator to this tale of three generations, and three different nations that stem out of a single one. The devil is in the details, as they say, and you get to experience exactly that in an excruciating snail pace, as Mehta indulges in the many details strewn across Rushdie’s faithful adaptation. It is hence, very difficult to review Midnight’s Children without diving into the details, and by that, I mean, discuss specific plot points which make it almost unwatchable to a certain extent. And so this review will have some minor spoilers.

Midnight’s is the story of Saleem Sinai (Darsheel Safary, Satya Bhabha), born at the very moment when India declared its independence, and by some stroke of luck, has a special power to connect with other children across India, who were born that very night – all of them having some superhuman power, although nothing of these powers is hardly anything to talk about, and it doesn’t become the focal point of the plot either. It is Sinai who gives a first person view of the state of the nations and many other historical milestone events, much like Forrest Gump. But the story doesn’t start there. It starts with the love story of Saleem’s grandfather, Aadam Aziz (Rajat Kapoor with a ridiculous prosthetic make up that means fuck all to me). And when told from Saleem’s perspective, it just doesn’t make sense, especially when Saleem starts narrating his grandfather’s sex life. Now that is some futuristic sperm. And boy oh boy, there are quite a few of these sex scenes at uniform intervals. Is that a filmmaker’s motif, or just a lame excuse to fit into that arty film mould? Fuck knows.

Spanning across almost 80 years, Rushdie’s tale has characters frequently entering the screen and exiting sooner than you realise. Mehta has been able to cast some really good actors no doubt, but they all fail to leave any lasting impression. Rahul Bose playing Army Chief Zulfikar is almost laughable, as he delivers monologue after monologue like a straight-up English play. Picture this; Zulfikar, on seeing Emerald (Saleem’s aunt) for the first time, falls in love with her. When he walks out of Aadam Aziz’s house, he says to his comrades in a very army general  tone – “Soldier, that is the woman I intend to marry. And the soldier replies – YES SIR!  Now that might seem like a good line in a book, but seeing that onscreen almost made me spill my drink.

There’s Ronit Roy, Shreeya Saran, Shahana Goswami, Siddharth, Khulbhushan Kharbanda, Soha Ali Khan, and even Shabana Azmi. And all of them seem too grateful to be in a Deepa Mehta/Salman Rushdie production to complain the mediocrity of their roles. I really wanted Siddharth to show off some badassness that his character promised, but alas that never happened.  And oh, there’s even Ranvir Shorey and Vinay Pathak, cast as Laurel and Hardy – no kidding. The biggest casting mishap however is of Suresh Menon as a Pakistani Field Marshall. I mean that pretty much ruined it for me. He is the equivalent of a modern day Jagdeep (but better). Now you wouldn’t cast Jagdeep as a Field Marshall, unless you were attempting a farce. And this is neither a farce, nor it seemed like a serious allegory that it was so desperately attempting to be one.

The only saving grace is Seema Biswas who can act her face off, even when she’s given so less material to play with. Her story seemed rushed, but even then, I was more interested to know how things were with her, than to know stupid Saleem’s ramblings. Yes, all these events are shown in the most clean and yet cinematically sumptuous fashion that Mehta is most known for. But even then, the drag of the script left me tired, underwhelmed, and with an overall bland aftertaste. It is only the striking background score by Nitin Sawhney which ties the narrative well, and for fans, there is even a Jagjit Singh track which caught me by surprise.

But despite that, the film fails to impress me. It goes from historical milestone 1 to 2 and so on. But by the end of it all, nothing came out of it. It lacked the emotional or dramatic connect that an epic tale of this size requires. Rushdie’s screenplay is the culprit here; it almost makes Mehta seem like an inept filmmaker. At a staggering two and a half hours, this will test your patience. Life’s too short and you’re better off watching MTV Jackass. At least that does exactly what it says on the tin.

Rating: 1 big plot-hole out of 5

 

Find more of Sujoy’s work on : OneKnightStands | Bollypop | @9E3K

 

@asimburney

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LFF 2012: Midnight’s Children Review

 

The nose of destiny

Salman Rushdie‘s first film screenplay adapts his own Booker Prize-winning novel – an allegory that parallels the upheavals in one family’s history with the events that would shape a post-colonial India, from the British exit to the partitioning of Pakistan.

Born on the cusp of India’s independence from Britain and switched at birth by a maternity nurse in a secret act of protest, Saleem Sinai‘s fate is not only inextricably bound to the future of his country, but also to that of Shiva, the boy whose place of privilege he takes.

Following a traumatic incident, Saleem discovers he has special powers and is able to communicate with other children who share his special birthday. As the outside world become more chaotic, wielding his new-found magic becomes Saleem’s most powerful tactic for navigating the tumultuous course of history.

I’ll start by saying I haven’t read the book, so anything that follows is based solely on the film as I’ve seen it. I also cannot comment on how accurately the events are portrayed. Midnight’s Children was one the films at the London Film Festival that I really wanted to see and for a few reasons: it’s an Indian film that isn’t in a Bollywood style, based on a book by Salman Rushdie, whose other books I’ve enjoyed and that I was hoping it would serve as an elementary history lesson. And as someone who has benefited culturally, from Britain’s former empire in another part of Asia I did feel a personal draw to this movie.

Instinctively, the title of the movie is wrong, as Midnight’s Child would be more apt given the amount of the film given to Saleem’s journey, but this is a facile thing to say really. Of the important things that I felt fell short, the most significant would be my confusion / convenience of Saleem’s appearance (his nose) and the notion of switching a poor child for a rich child at birth. As we see at the beginning, “Saleem’s” grandfather has a gigantic nose and so when his own resembles this, no suspicion is aroused that he isn’t their biological son. It transpires that he is in fact the illegitimate son of an eccentric Brit (Charles Dance) and the young wife of a poor musician who plays the accordion and sings at his villa each day. Overlooking this however, I still can’t quite reconcile the switching of babies at birth as a justifiable action of Marxist revolution (let the rich be poor and the poor be rich) when the reality is that there are still the same number of rich/poor babies, who have no concept of what their life would have been anyway and who have been unnecessarily taken away from their own true parents. The futility of this gesture is played out with the stories of both Saleem and Shiva and in material terms you have to say that the rich-made-poor kid achieves a far higher station in life, although it’s not explained fully as to how.

At times I felt that perhaps there should have been more attention given to the other characters in the story – not so much for their sake, but so that there would be a better context to Saleem’s own life. That said, at two and a half hours, this is a lengthy film, so where this would come from isn’t clear. Thankfully, given the scale of the story (it starts in the early 20th century, ends in the 1970s), we have Salman Rushdie himself narrating and keeping the viewer in touch, should he/she have become a bit disconnected. Make no mistake though; this is a great film to watch and you will be able to follow it all the way through.

Deepa Mehta has created a film that looks and feels beautiful; it sent me back in time and place, easily evoking the emotions and tensions of the era and the beauty of this part of the world. Towards the end of the film when the dark times come and all of Midnight’s Children are imprisoned for insurrection, the sun simply fails to shine and it is black. Even this is poetically and subtly filmed and I think other directors would have made too much of this in a harsher and more obvious way.

There are many memorable moments, but seeing a young Saleem helping the generals plot the coup in Pakistan by moving the knives and forks and salt and pepper pots around the dinner table as tanks, soldiers and buildings around the battlefield was brilliant. There’s a positively black piece of humour when Saleem is knocked out by a silver spittoon, harking back to earlier scenes with his mother. And dancing to a Hindi version of Chubby Checker’s The Twist I loved and is as close to a Bollywood musical interlude as you’ll get. Satya Bhabha, playing Saleem, really is excellent and I felt very attached to his character and his journey. He has everything an affluent family can provide, loses it all, is beaten, humiliated, tortured, falls in love, is betrayed and still ends up happy with his lot in life. The story ends with the “circle” being completed as it were. Having invested nearly all my energy into Saleem, when the credits rolled I just breathed a big sigh of relief and was thankful for a wonderful movie.

I’ll end by giving a special mention to the musical score. Rarely, if ever have I heard such gorgeous music in a film and as sure as I am that Midnight’s Children will be nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, plus some of the technical ones, if Nitin Sawhney doesn’t win Best Music (original score) then any hint of respect I may have for the Oscars will cease to exist.

With Satya Bhabha, Shahana Goswami, Seema Biswas
Canada-UK 2012
148 mins

@martincawley

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