I like films, but I love books, but I don’t love Salman Rushdie’s books. I read about the first fifty pages of Midnight’s Children and didn’t go any further. But I enjoyed the film. It’s a simplified version of the book, and being quite simple that’s the version for me. I get the same kind of thing with Shakespeare. It’s not something I’d read for pleasure. And when you get to a certain age you could admit that if you’re not reading for pleasure, you’re not reading. You’re watching films—hence Midnight’s Children (for Dummies). A guilt-free pleasure.
As you probably know Salman Rushdie’s novel is based on the night (Midnight) when India is no longer under British rule. India becomes independent. Two boys born at midnight are switched by a nurse. A rich boy becomes a poor boy. A poor boy becomes a rich boy. The trajectory of their lives are changed by that act. The prince becomes a pauper and the pauper a prince.
Their lives, together and apart, mirror the breakup of India with Pakistan and in the seventies with Bangladesh, also changed with the act of partition.
When I mention magical-realism, you’ve probably figure I don’t know what I’m talking about. The rich-poor boy Saleem Sinai (Satya Bhabha) hears voices in his head. And by twitching his nose can summon all those other children born on that magical night, who have also been given a hidden magical power. Paravati (Shriya Saran) for example is a witch, a very beautiful witch. She’s the love interest. Shiva (Siddharth Suryanarayanan) the poor-rich boy whose destiny Saleem Sinai stole, stands between them. Being a simple sort, I’m simplifying.
I enjoyed the movie, but not the book. I might try reading the book again, already knowing the broad outlines of the narrative. But I probably won’t. Sometimes when I do that I still don’t like the book, which makes me feel like a reader that has failed the reading test. Watch the movie (don’t read the book). I’m simplifying my life.