The basic axiom of editing is “kill your darlings.” In adapting his acclaimed magical-historical epic Midnight’s Children from a Booker Prize-winning bestseller to a feature film, Salman Rushdie has ignored that basic editing advice, delivering a film bloated by excess material.
The picaresque allegory follows the destinies of two Indian boys born at the stroke of midnight, Aug. 15, 1947, at the instant Britain granted their nation independence. Midnight’s Children follows the boys, and India (and Pakistan, and Bangladesh), through the rest of the past century. But before the story proper begins, there’s a rambling, entirely superfluous half-hour curtain-raiser about the children’s grandparents and parents.
As newborns, Shiva (played by the actor Siddharth), the princeling of a commercially important family, and Saleem (Satya Bhabha), the son of a poor single mother, are switched by a delivery-room nurse in a Bombay hospital. Gifted with a mystical nose, Saleem can telepathically summon all of India’s other Midnight children, who possess diverse occult powers of their own. The protagonists tumble through modern India’s wars, class strife and political upheavals as they reach adulthood. The overstuffed narrative makes for an incoherent 2½ hours. Midnight’s Children isn’t brimming with incident; it’s drowning in it.
Cast: Satya Bhabha, Shashana Goswami, Rajat Kapoor, Siddharth.
Director: Deepa Mehta.
Screenwriters: Salman Rushdie, Deepa Mehta, Rutvik Oza. Based on the novel by Rushdie.
Producer: David Hamilton.
Running time: 146 minutes. In Hindi, English and Urdu with English subtitles. Playing in Miami-Dade only: Cosford, O Cinema Miami Shores, Tower.