Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children is generally accepted as one of the most important pieces of literature of the 20th century. Since winning the Man Booker Prize in 1981, it has enjoyed massive critical acclaim, ensured the enduring fame of its author, and was named the best ever winner of the 40-year-old Booker Prize. A film adaptation has been on the cards for years, but hasn’t come to light until now. The narrative is in safe hands – the screenplay was written by Rushdie himself.
Midnight’s Children tells the story of Saleem Sinai, born at the exact moment of India’s independence in 1947, forever linking his life to the historical path of his country. His development becomes a strange metaphor for the ever-changing social and political situations in India, which he often happens to inadvertently play a part in. As if that’s not enough, Saleem becomes the telepathic hub for the 1,000 children born within the first hour of independence, who all have their own magical powers – the midnight’s children in question.
Giles Nuttgen’s cinematography is beautiful, making India dazzle on the screen. Whether it’s the costumes or the weather, the grand colonial-era houses or the energy and life of the slums, the images are mesmerising. The literary genre of magical realism – where seemingly illogical events happen in the real world – is a difficult one to translate from the page to the screen, but it is well conveyed in parts. When Indira Ghandi rules by decree for two year in the 1970s, ‘the emergency’ is depicted with darkness cast large over India, until it ends and the sun immediately shines again. The creation of Bangladesh is more obvious in the movie than it was in the book, but this makes the vast cast of colourful characters are a little easier to keep up with when you can see them in action, as opposed to reading their names on a page.
Midnight’s Children is the kind of book you’d love to see on screen but could never imagine how it would be done. Obviously great effort has gone in to making this adaptation, as it manages to capture the essence of the book perfectly without losing any of its intricate plot. It’s also likely that watching this film will make people want to read the book, which will subsequently be much more accessible to them. The novel is epic, and should still be enjoyed as a reading experience, but here it has finally been magnificently captured on screen, and it was well worth the wait.
This article originally appeared in SoSoGay magazine.