Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
Canada/United Kingdom, 2012. David Hamilton Productions, Hamilton Mehta Productions, Number 9 Films. Screenplay by Deepa Mehta, based on the book by Salman Rushdie. Cinematography by Produced by David Hamilton. Music by Nitin Sawhney. Production Design by Errol Kelly, Dilip Mehta. Costume Design by Dolly Ahluwalia, Ritu Kumar. Film Editing by Colin Monie. Toronto International Film Festival 2012.
The best example of the danger in having a successful author adapt their own work, as Salman Rushdie brings his novel to the big screen without managing to make its narrative fit a cinematic mold (or create a new one). It’s a rambling mess about generations of a family in early twentieth century India, the center of it being Saleem (a wonderful Satya Bhabha) who is raised by loving, highly expectant parents before being sent to spend years of his adolescence with his military general uncle and weak-willed aunt. In his teen years, he discovers he has the magical ability to communicate with scores of other children who were born, like him, at midnight, a power that he believes he controls through his constantly running nose. Through this power he eventually learns that he was switched at birth by a nurse who was besotted in love with a class-conscious revolutionary, and that his father’s true heir is actually roaming the streets a vagabond and growing up to become a violent sadist. There are plenty of sequences that are beautifully achieved, and director Deepa Mehta coaxes terrific performances out of the uniformly excellent cast, but the narrative needs major pruning in parts and augmentations in others. Entire plots are enacted without enough connection to later sections of the film, while conflicts that arise and burn with friction are resolved in dissatisfying and banal ways: in short, it plays like a novel, and it’s a shame that no one dared to tell Rushdie that in writing the screenplay he was doing it all wrong.