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Does Mehta's 'Midnight's Children' Prove The Novel Is Unfilmmable?


Deepa Mehta Salman Rushdie

The movie adaptation of Salman Rushdie's Midnight Children, directed by Deepa Mehta, hit theaters in the U.S. on the back of largely average reviews. It is often joked that the Booker Prize winning novel is unfinishable, with film adaptations subsequently sidestepped because of the skill and vision involved in such a project. Until now.

Nevertheless, Mehta has given it a go though the critics are unconvinced that he has succeeded. David Denby at the New Yorker wrote, "Rushdie's characteristic antic humor animates the family scenes, but the movie gets bogged down in endless plot convolutions and whimsy (the material would have worked better as a TV miniseries)." Rachel Saltz at the New York Times said, "A movie that, if never exactly dull, feels drained of the mythic juice that powers the book, which won the Booker Prize in 1981."

Robert Abele at the Los Angeles Times praised the movie's visuals though ultimately fell short, "A pretty but staidly linear epic drained of the novel's larkish, metaphorical sweep, and a collection of multi-generational love stories lacking their originally eccentric, fizzy charm," he said. Claudia Puig of USA Today agreed, writing, "The film is beautifully shot, with vivid production design. But because of the tale's lack of cohesion, it doesn't carry enough emotional heft."

Continue reading: Does Mehta's 'Midnight's Children' Prove The Novel Is Unfilmmable?

Midnight's Children Trailer


At midnight on August 15th 1947, India gained their independence from Britain during the decline of the British Empire. 'Midnight's Children' tells the story of how at that exact same time, a boy by the name of Saleem Sinai was born; a boy who soon learned that he was extraordinary in many ways as he possessed magical telepathic powers as a result of the time he was born. He later learns that other children born at the same time also have similar powers and he sets up a kind of club of all the Indian children born between midnight and 1 a.m. Along the way he clashes with Shiva, another Midnight Child who finds himself despising Saleem for his wealthy upbringing which is a strong contrast to his own poverty stricken life. Little do they both know, however, that they were deliberately switched at birth and fated to live the life the other son should've had. 

'Midnight's Children' is the emotional fantasy drama adapted from Salman Rushdie's 1981 novel of the same name which won the Booker Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize on its publication. The author also wrote the screenplay in his feature film debut alongside director Deepa Mehta ('Heaven on Earth', 'Bollywood/ Hollywood').  It is set for release on December 26th 2012 in the UK. 

Directed: Deepa Mehta 

Continue: Midnight's Children Trailer

Preity Zinta and Deepa Mehta - Preity Zinta and Deepa Mehta Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Opening Night Gala of The 5th Annual Dubai International Film Festival held at the Madinat Jumeriah Complex Thursday 11th December 2008

Preity Zinta and Deepa Mehta
Preity Zinta

Water Review


Very Good
Whoever did the marketing for Water is eternally on my shit list. At the beginning of the preview for Deepa Mehta's latest film, it dramatically announces that certain people wanted to suppress it from distribution but, get this, "the filmmakers would not be silenced." It's like the back of a Rushdie book that labors on how he was almost killed for his novels: What the hell does that have to do with the movie besides to say its controversial? Knockaround Guys was in the can for a good three or four years before it was released, but that didn't make it a film of importance nor a film to stop arranging your sock drawer over. At least Water doesn't count in the same category as that.Chuyia (Sarala) is nine years old and has just lost her husband. If that doesn't creep you out enough, peep this: Widows, in Hindu culture, were sent to an ashram where they would live till their last day. It's 1930, so this ideology is still commonly considered the norm. Chuyia immediately bonds with a loner in the group, Kalyani (the radiant Lisa Ray), who hides a puppy in her hut and breaks many other rules of the ashram. One day, when the puppy runs away, they both run into Narayan (John Abraham), a handsome gentleman with glasses and a penchant for Ghandi. Narayan is persistent in his courting of Kalyani, who by Hindu tradition can not date or get remarried. Finally, she caves in and agrees to marry him, but after the agreement, a strange punch of faith hits her and things get gloomy.Underneath all the ritual and religion, Water is a simple love vs. faith story. Kalyani is soft spoken in her rebellious nature, but she does believe what Hinduism teaches the women. Her friend Shakuntala (a superb Seema Biswas), works in opposite fashion as she is first held down by belief but then opens up to belief in freedom, brought to a head when she witnesses Ghandi speaking at a train station. Mehta orchestrates these clashes of ideology deftly, especially the side plot involving Gulabi, a man who pimps out the widows to rich men, and the head mistress, Madhumati (Manorma). The love story is simple enough to work and engage the audience, but the real winner here is Mehta and Giles Nuttgens, the cinematographer. Together, they create a luminous world around the controversial lifestyle and rituals of these women.Coming into Mehta's "Elemental Trilogy" a novice, I find that her skill at direction far exceeds her writing ability. Although no line sticks out as awkward or painful, there's nothing to really remember in the language either. The film lingers in your memory for those clear, concise images, like the rain outside Kalyani's hut that seems to be constantly falling. Hindu fundamentalists will be up in arms, no doubt, but the film is artful in showing the positive side of belief and the negative responses to freedom and free thinking. In other words, it is definitely worth putting off that sock arrangement for one more day.Hey, who's thirsty?

Water Review


Very Good
Whoever did the marketing for Water is eternally on my shit list. At the beginning of the preview for Deepa Mehta's latest film, it dramatically announces that certain people wanted to suppress it from distribution but, get this, "the filmmakers would not be silenced." It's like the back of a Rushdie book that labors on how he was almost killed for his novels: What the hell does that have to do with the movie besides to say its controversial? Knockaround Guys was in the can for a good three or four years before it was released, but that didn't make it a film of importance nor a film to stop arranging your sock drawer over. At least Water doesn't count in the same category as that.

Chuyia (Sarala) is nine years old and has just lost her husband. If that doesn't creep you out enough, peep this: Widows, in Hindu culture, were sent to an ashram where they would live till their last day. It's 1930, so this ideology is still commonly considered the norm. Chuyia immediately bonds with a loner in the group, Kalyani (the radiant Lisa Ray), who hides a puppy in her hut and breaks many other rules of the ashram. One day, when the puppy runs away, they both run into Narayan (John Abraham), a handsome gentleman with glasses and a penchant for Ghandi. Narayan is persistent in his courting of Kalyani, who by Hindu tradition can not date or get remarried. Finally, she caves in and agrees to marry him, but after the agreement, a strange punch of faith hits her and things get gloomy.

Continue reading: Water Review

Fire Review


Weak
When two sisters-in-law come to realize they are married to the biggest jackasses in all of India, they do what comes naturally and explore one another. Before you get too excited, it's not too steamy, and it's not a comedy, either. What is it? Well, more soap opera than anything else, full of wringing of hands and lots and lots of talking. Snooze. Feels like a film-school special.

The Republic Of Love Review


OK

The DVD case for The Republic of Love engages in a little harmless misinformation. The film is not actually based on a Pulitzer Price-winning novel. It's based on a book written by someone (Carol Shields), who wrote another book (The Stone Diaries), which did win a Pulitzer.

That's some comfort, too, because I can't fathom how a middle-aged romantic tragicomedy like this could possibly win a major award.

At its core is a story of a radio talk show host Tom (Bruce Greenwood) and "mermaid researcher" girlfriend Faye (Emilia Fox). Tom has a string of divorces behind him, the result of being too anxious to fall in love with every girl he meets. Faye is gunshy -- it seems that all of Tom's ex-wives are friends of hers. (And, strangely, she's never met him?)

None of this is played for laughs, really. We're supposed to feel bad for Tom and pine for he and Faye to find something lasting amidst an environment of bleak winter, dysfunctional families, and dying geriatrics. Cold and detached, it's hard to get behind either of these characters, who not only don't seem very right for each other, they don't seem very right for anyone. Case in point: When Tom is jogging with a friend, the guy (right next to him) collapses and keels over dead. Tom doesn't notice: He's distracted by a billboard with his face on it, concerned with the size of his nostrils. As for Faye: A mermaid researcher? I can't put my finger on it, but something just doesn't gel there.

Director Deepa Mehta does nothing to make this palatable. In fact, she goes out of her way to distance us from the story and the characters, most notably through washing the entire movie into total gray, giving it just a hint of color (in the end, the movie brightens up in a particularly awful scene that has animated flowers growing over the frame). Wintry symbolism has never felt so forced -- and in a film that ought to have been played as a romantic comedy, it's never been more out of place, either.

This film is one of Film Movement's simultaneous theatrical/DVD releases -- but I can't find any theater that's showing it. Film Movement is also the sole distributor of its DVDs -- releasing one a month -- so you can't usually get them at Amazon. This one's the exception.

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Deepa Mehta Movies

Midnight's Children Trailer

Midnight's Children Trailer

At midnight on August 15th 1947, India gained their independence from Britain during the decline...

Water Movie Review

Water Movie Review

Whoever did the marketing for Water is eternally on my shit list. At the beginning...

Water Movie Review

Water Movie Review

Whoever did the marketing for Water is eternally on my shit list. At the beginning...

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