Midnight’s Children, which had its European premiere at the 56th London Film Festival, is better known as the Booker prize-winning novel by Salman Rushdie. It tells the story of India’s transition away from British colonialism through a multitude of characters, generations and cities. Rushdie himself adapted the screenplay and executively produces Deepa Mehta‘s film.
Midnight’s Children remains true to the novel’s celebrated style, blending the truth of India’s difficult colonial past with an exhilarating magical realism. It remains a winning combination that stops the experience of watching the film from feeling like a loaded history class, whilst still keeping its advantage of being educational. Numerous characters filter into the story of two young boys, one rich one poor, who are exchanged at birth at midnight on the eve of India’s independence from British colonialism. Amidst the ever changing social and political climate it is revealed that all the children who were born on this fateful hour have a magical gift and are called the ‘Midnight’s Children’.
The film embodies the novel’s broad gaze on an important moment in Indian history through impressive cinematography. There is depth and beauty to the representations of the landscapes, from a boat down the river, to a train from Agra to Bombay, passing through Pakistan and Bangladesh as they too claimed their independence. The wars become fights between friends and suddenly history is no longer just about the facts.
Despite its concern with a painful past, Midnight’s Children retains a light-heartedness that permeates throughout. The film is yet to be released in India, where it has been met with fierce criticism.