The cinematic production of Salman Rushdie’s “Midnight’s Children” has, in a sense, been in the cards since the book’s debut in 1981.
The epic, magical realist tale of emerging post-colonial India won a Booker Prize and became the defining novel of its time about the birth of the nation.
If you’re a regular reader of The Aerogram, I’m betting you know a little something about the story, but here’s the Cliffs Notes version just in case: it unfolds from the perspective of Saleem Sinai, who’s born in Bombay at the stroke of midnight on Independence Day. Saleem grows up in the comfort of a wealthy Muslim home, and has a nose like a faucet that makes him the target of ridicule. But it also possesses a supreme sensitivity that hints at the boy’s greater distinction: he’s a telepath who can summon a conclave of other Indian children born, like him, close to the dawn of a new India.
The story follows Saleem’s fate, and the other Midnight’s Children, through the tortuous years of partition and the political tumult that follow.
Rushdie wrote the screenplay for director Deepa Mehta’s version of the movie, which was mostly filmed in Colombo, Sri Lanka. I talked to two of its actors, who were in San Francisco for its West Coast premiere at last month’s CAAMFest.
You’ll hear lead actor Satya Bhabha (Saleem Sinai) and supporting actor Samrat Chakrabarti (Wee Willie Winkie) discuss their roles and their memories of first reading the book, and what it was like to work with veteran Indian film stars like Shabana Azmi, Anupam Kher, and Seema Biswas.
“Midnight’s Children” is the closing presentation at this week’s Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles. It will open in select U.S. theaters on April 26.
You can follow Nishat Kurwa on Twitter @nishatjaan.