The much-anticipated filmed version of Salman Rushdie’s epic Midnight’s Children, directed by Deepa Mehta, will be completed by March next year and released by October 2012, according to the author and the director.
While the project has been shrouded in secrecy, Rushdie and Mehta, for the first time, discussed at length the process of creating a film out of a 600-page novel at the Toronto International Film Festival or TIFF. The first sneak preview of scenes from the film was also provided during the 90-minute event.
The duo made it clear that the choice of Sri Lanka as the location for shooting the film wasn’t connected to the problems that have previously dogged them in India. Mehta had to shift filming of Water, from Varanasi in India to Sri Lanka due to protests by Hindutva activists. Another of Rushdie’s much-celebrated novels, The Satanic Verses, remains banned by the Indian government.
However, the problem with filming in India this time around for Midnight’s Children was simply that major Indian metropolises had grown too much. Rushdie said, “It’s never been a problem out there with Midnight’s Children. It’s not controversial.” However, as Mehta explained “to recreate” India at various stages, from the 1920s to the 1970s in modern India was “really difficult.”
Mehta also pointed out she had shot Heaven on Earth in India without incident.
The film is based on Rushdie’s Booker of Bookers winning novel, which is tied to the birth of its main character, Saleem Sinai, on the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947 as India gained independence.
The film will feature a strong ensemble cast. Darsheel Safary will play the young Sinai, while London-born actor Satya Bhabha enacts the role of the adult. The film also features leading actors from the Indian film industry including Shabana Azmi, Seema Biswas, Anupam Kher, Shahana Goswami, Shriya Saran, Rahul Bose and Soha Ali Khan. Siddharth, who gained recognition with Rang de Basanti, appears in the critical role of Shiva, another important midnight’s child of the novel..
While the book completed its 30th anniversary of publication this year, the film project came into being a couple of years back, from a casual dialogue between Rushdie and Mehta in Toronto.
Rushdie played a major part in writing the screenplay for the movie, as he said, “I do think one of the things I could do was to be more disrespectful of the book than anyone else.” Mehta described the book itself as very “cinematic” with “long shot, close up, voice-over” elements already ingrained in it.
Rushdie does the narrator’s voiceover in the film, though he ruled out a cameo in it.