Though a bit literal for a film that traffics in magical realism, Deepa Mehta’s “Midnight’s Children” is both dreamy and dramatic, a fascinating view of Indian history seen through the prism of a personal – and occasionally twinned – story.
Adapted by director Deepa Mehta and screenwriter Salman Rushdie (from his award-winning 1981 novel), the film tells the story of two boys who grow to manhood, both born at the stroke of midnight at the moment in 1947 when India took its independence from England. One is the son of a businessman, the other the offspring of a beggar from the same neighborhood.
The two share a mystical bond with hundreds of other children born in that first hour of India’s independence. They share another secret as well, though one neither of them is aware of: They were switched shortly after birth, by a nurse practicing a little social Darwinism on the privileged. It is her own act of rebellion, a response to the death of a close friend who has been killed in the political upheaval between Muslims and Hindus, rich and poor. What better way to show that humans are humans, no matter what their origin, than sending the child of beggar into the home of a well-to-do businessman?
So the story of Saleem Sinai (Satya Bhabha), raised as the businessman’s son, becomes a journey of self-discovery for young Saleem. He gets to know Shiva (Siddharth), for whom he was swapped, because Shiva lives in his neighborhood. Shiva also starts appearing in Saleem’s ghostly visitations by Midnight’s Children, the group connected by the supernatural bond of being born at the instant of India’s independence, whom Saleem has the power to summon.
This review continues on my website.