I just heard today that in a few weeks a new movie will open based on Salman Rushdie's novel, Midnight's Children.
Midnight's Children is an absolutely amazing book, one of my two favorite novels of the 20th century (the other being The Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth). It not only won the prestigious Man Booker Prize in England, but when they later awarded the 25-year "Booker of Bookers," for the best Booker Prize-winner of the previous 25 years, it won that, as well. And then, when a few years ago they gave the 40-year "Booker of Bookers," it won that, too!
It's a really good book. (You might have figured that out...)
I love Midnight's Children. It's mystical, hilarious, sad, exciting, intelligent, moving and virtuosic writing, weaving a rich sense of fantasy into a very realistic tale. And I don't have a clue how they can do the book justice in a movie.
Mind you, I'm not saying it won't be a good movie. It's a very interesting story, at times tense and involving, so there's perhaps enough to carry a film. But what's so amazing about the novel is the use of literature. Rushdie's phrasing, his whimsical interludes, the occasional page-and-a-half long paragraphs, the thoughtfulness and the vibrancy of language. It would seem like most of that would have to be lost in a film. What's left is still a great story, but the plot itself isn't why I love it and why it keeps winning honors, it's the writing. I did hear that Salman Rushdie himself provides the narration in the film, which at least means that a sense of the literature will remain in the film. (He also wrote the screenplay.)
I won't give away the plot, but just explain the premise. The story tells about the various children who were born at the stroke of midnight when India became an independent nation in 1947. Because of the magical moment it was, all of these children are born with special abilities, each different. Many of them are unaware, most are benign, but one has bad designs. Overall, the story is a parable about the growing pains of India trying to come to maturity.
If you do happen to pick up the book, know that the first section is a prologue, and a bit different from the rest of the novel. It's tougher-going and extended. But once you're past that, and the story proper starts, it becomes a roller-coaster joy ride, and it was surprising to me how fun and often hilarious it was to read, while being deeply thoughtful at the same time.
As far as I can tell, the film is an Indian production, with an all-Indian cast, understandably. Again, as I said, my hesitancies about the movie have nothing to do with whether it will be good or not, just whether they're able to bring out what's so special and remarkable about the book to the screen. If they can't, and the movie is still a pleasure on its own merits, fine. But this is one of the few movies I may wait to read the reviews first, to see what those critics who know the novel have to say.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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