After not finding any Indian distributors initially, Deepa Mehta’s film Midnight’s Children is finally releasing here on February 1. The lead actor, Satya Bhabha, talks about getting into character, sleeping with the book under his pillow and the involvement of author Salman Rushdie.
How did you prepare for the role of Saleem Sinai?
Before filming, we had a workshop with Deepa and the main cast, to develop a common language. I first read the book when I was 10, and then I read it again when I was approached for the part. Through the preparation and even while shooting, it was pretty much under my pillow. Plus, I did a lot of research, studied Hindi, read books and watched films that would help me live in Saleem’s world, so to say.
Since you are based in Los Angeles, did you also visit India to understand Saleem’s roots?
Yes, I spent a lot of time in Mumbai retracing his footsteps and sort of investigating or seeking out Salman’s Mumbai. I travelled to Delhi, toured Rajasthan extensively and even covered Kerala and some places around it. Doing so helped me discover my roots as well as spend time with my family.
How did interacting with Rushdie help you understand your character better?
Salman and I met and we spoke in general. We traded stories about our own eccentric Indian families and spoke of the adaptation. That was at a time when the script wasn’t even finalised, but I’m sure much of what was in it was influenced by Deepa’s discussions with Salman.
How close is the film to Rushdie’s book?
When adapting an almost 700 page book into a film of a couple of hours, there are some details that can’t travel onto the screen. However, I think unless you read the book just a day before you were to see the film, it would be hard to put your finger on what the differences are. It feels like its cut from the same cloth.
Are we going to see you in a Bollywood movie very soon?
I hope so. Let’s have this one release first and then hope the next one will be here.
Was there a point where you thought the film may not release in India?
There were certainly moments when we weren’t sure if it would release in India. The fact that PVR has stepped up and is so passionate and has seen the beauty and magic of the film is exciting.
Shriya Sharan as Parvati and Satya Bhabha as Saleem Sinai in Deepa Mehta's Midnight Children.