Oscar-nominated director Deepa Mehta is all set for the release of her adaptation of the Booker Prize-winning writer Salman Rushdie's novel 'Midnight's Children'. In an email interview, Mehta gets candid about her love for the book and brushes aside reports of anxiety about the release of the film. Excerpts:
What drew you to Salman Rushdie's 'Midnight's Children'?
It's take on post colonial history of India as seen through the eyes of an anti hero. The book had a great impact on me as it echoed my own upbringing. It read like a movie full of cinematic language. The dark humor combined with affection for all human foibles stayed with me.
Did you find it hard to pick and choose what parts of the book to depict on screen, considering 'Midnight’s Children' is such a layered novel?
It's always tough when one is doing an adaptation. But Salman Rushdie writing the screenplay helped enormously. Also we had a very similar vision for the film.
Movies based on books often never entirely satisfy fans of the latter, considering that you have to cram it all into 2-3 hours. How have you tried to retain the essence of the book?
I like to think we have remained true to the characters and the metaphor of the story line.
What role has Salman Rushdie played during the making of the movie?
Salman wrote the screenplay. Initially he didn’t want to write it but I insisted that he writes the screenplay because he’s a good screenplay writer and he had already done an adaptation for a TV mini series that I thought was really good! He has also narrated the film. He is the voice of the older ‘Saleem Sinai’. He was not present during the shoot of the film and saw the film for the first time at the edit stage. He’s not an egoist and he understands that there’s only one director and he had respect for that, which was very good.
Deepa Mehta and Salman Rushdie at the Toronto International Film Festival last year. Photo: AFP
Did Rushdie really sell you the rights of the movie for a dollar? How did that happen?
Yes he did sell the option for a dollar. It was his way of pitching in. Lucky for us! It just happened that one night over dinner I asked him who had the rights. He said he did and sold it to me when I asked to buy them.
When did you first read the book? Did you love it immediately?
I read the book in 1982 and yes, loved it immediately. I loved the way the story flows and the way Salman merged the magic with the realism. I loved the style too. By the time I had asked Salman for the rights to it, I’d probably read it about fourty times. I never thought of it as a film until about three years ago. But what I loved about it initially remains true. Whether you read it as being about of a young man coming of age or a young country coming of age, the journey is the same.
How are you coping with all the controversies surrounding it?
I think you are mixing 'Midnight's Children' with the Satanic Verses. There are no controversies to cope with. Touch wood. Midnight’s Children is based on a very beloved book. It’s not banned. Infact, the book is a big seller in India.
How relieved were you when PVR came forward to release the movie?
Relieved is a strange word to use. I was very pleased that PVR picked it up. At no point were we even remotely anxious.
Will you ever make a movie for the masses, an out and out ‘masala’ affair?
Can you share any interesting incidents from the sets of the movie?
Well, we lost an elephant, a cobra escaped, a water buffalo would not move, a gaggle of geese drowned all dialogue and a goat fell off a tight rope on the head of the still photographer. Luckily neither was hurt.
For more news, photos and videos of Midnight's Children, go here
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