Academy award-nominated filmmaker Deepa Mehta goes on to adapt Salman Rushdie's Booker Prize-winning-novel 'Midnight's Children' with the film 'Midnight's Children'. The film revolves around the lives of children born 'at the stroke of the midnight hour' on August 15, 1947, which left British India independent and divided into India and Pakistan. Two children, Saleem and Shiva, get swapped at the hospital and their lives change forever.
The film is a mix of different genres - political drama, satire, romance, magical realism and much more. It could have been an interesting watch, had it been directed more astutely and in a unidirectional manner (too many side-plots) and made on a larger scale. However, this take is a complete disappointment. It fails to live up to any of the aforementioned themes and ends up beating around the bush (for close to 150 minutes!).
At midnight on August 15, 1947, as India gains independence, two new-born babies are switched by a nurse Mary (who has been brainwashed by her lover into believing that the rich will have to become poor and the poor, rich!), played by Seema Biswas, in a hospital in Bombay. Saleem Sinai (Darsheel Safary and Satya Bhabha), the illegitimate son of poor woman, and Shiva (Siddharth), a child to a well-off couple (Amina, played by Shahana Goswami, and Ahmed Sinai, played by Ronit Roy), are swapped and end up leading lives meant for each other. Their life-story is set to the back-drop of the increasing tensions amid India and Pakistan. Saleem ends up serving for the Pakistan army and Shiva becomes an army officer for the Indian army. Shiva has always resented Saleem for being a rich man's son, and consequently, more fortunate. Amidst all the drama, we are introduced to other characters such as the mysterious conjurer Parvati (Shriya Saran), her mentor Picture Singh (Kulbhushan Kharbanda), the Pakistani major Zulfikar (Rahul Bose), his gorgeous wife Emerald (Anita Majumdar) and in the preceding portions of the film (circa 1910s), Rajat Kapoor plays Amina's (she had a turbulent past, which came back to haunt her, with a man named Nadir Khan, played by Zaib Shaikh) father, Aadam Aziz.
'Midnight's Children' has many inconsequential sub-plots within the entire plot, which kind of becomes bearable owing to the dramatic ending. However, at large, the film is a dampener and fails to evoke any emotion. The historic incidents are marred with over-the-top acting and terrible dialogue writing. It is not clear whether Indira Gandhi's character was meant to be a spoof. If it was, it shouldn't have been. With the makers having been so gutsy to actually show the happenings of the Emergency in the film, the least they could have done is to lend some seriousness to the chief protagonist/antagonist of the entire saga. Our late Prime Minister has been portrayed in terrible light in the film. Even if they wanted to lend a dictatorial element to her character, they could have done away with the caricaturing. Furthermore, some of the scenes in the film, which incorporate a lot of jargons associated with India, even fail to strike a chord with the Indian viewer. Wonder why they couldn’t let the principal characters communicate to each other in Hindi/Urdu instead of English, albeit with subtitles. 'Slumdog Millionaire' did that and bagged an Oscar. The film is good in some parts, in particular, the ending. However, the film, despite having great potential premise-wise, fails to put forward a great story. Haven't read the book, but does it really matter? A film is a story and if it's badly told, it's just bad. Doesn't matter if it's original or adapted!
Among the actors, Siddharth, Rahul Bose, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Rajat Kapoor, Anupam Kher, Shabana Azmi do a fine job. Ronit Roy's character is strikingly similar to his disciplinarian father act in 'Udaan'. Although he does well yet again, it's nothing new. There are two terrible CGI sequences, both involving bomb blasts. There is also one scene in which Siddharth is shown riding a bike and the frame shakes vigorously. Wonder why! One particular sequence that is enjoyable in the film is when Kulbhushan's Picture Singh addresses his snake as 'Karan'! Such light-hearted moments are too few and far in between. The scenes in which Saleem talks to his fellow Midnight's Children are delightful. It's one of those films where there are moments of brilliance within lots of below-par fare! Avoidable!