Film director Deepa Mehta is no stranger to controversy. Two of her movies – “Fire” and “Water” – were hit by protests from right-wing groups in India, and there were fears her latest cinematic offering would meet a similar fate. “Midnight’s Children”, Mehta’s adaptation of the Booker Prize-winning novel by Salman Rushdie, opens in Indian cinemas on Friday. The film, which chronicles the story of an Indian family living through the tumultuous events of the country’s recent past, features a voice over by Rushdie. The book’s depiction of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s role during India’s Emergency in the 1970s had thrown the film’s screening into doubt. Mehta, 63, spoke to Reuters about “Midnight’s Children,” adapting a book for the screen and “un-filmable films.”
Q: Many people had said that “Midnight’s Children” might be un-filmable. Was it an easy book to adapt?
A: “This is not the first book that I have adapted. I worked on Bapsi Sidhwa’s book for ‘Earth’. All books, by their very nature, don’t have to make good films. I think it depends on the filmmaker– if the filmmaker finds that something in that inherent story has resonance for them, then you say let me try and do it … One of the things you have to be aware of is that the film is not a facsimile of the book. It was the same with Midnight’s Children. Yes, it was an iconic book. Yes, people said it was un-filmable. For me, it was a very clear narrative.”
Q: Were there parts that you wanted to leave out?
A: “Absolutely. Early on I told Salman (Rushdie) … to write down in narrative form what he thought the flow of the film should be and I’ll do the same. Separately, we wrote down what we felt the progress of the story should be in the film. We found, much to our surprise, that the points were almost identical. You know then, that your vision is the same.”