Blog Business Entertainment Environment Health Latest News News Analysis Opinion Science Sports Technology Videos World
Midnight's Children: Analyzing the Journey of Book and Film

Midnight's children written by Salman Rushdie is one of the most inspiring novels of the 19th century, highlighting the dramatic history of the pre colonial period. It was published in 1981 with a view of demonstrating to the audience, India, with its complex history, political outreach, diversity, and plurality. Saleem Sinai's narration, his family and his life journey makes the story entrancing, leaving comforting tastes on our tongues.


The Oscar nominated film, 'Midnight's Children' directed by the filmmaker Deepa Mehta and screen played by Salman Rushdie himself was released 30 years after the publication of the book. The movie is Calgary International Film Festival’s Red Carpet Opening Gala presentation. Author Salman Rushdie transforms 533 pages into 148 minutes of screen time, showing the stardom of four generations . “It was an exercise in discovering the essence of the book,” Rushdie had said in an interview on CBC radio.


This article focuses on analysing and comparing the book, Midnight's Children and it's movie adaptation. We aim at exploring the differences and similarities that the author and the director explored. To make such a politically impactful book into a movie, showing the same magnificence on screen as in  the book is no easy work, and we looked at the most minute as well as the biggest events, comparing their impressions on the audience.

Rushdie had predicted the response the readers would provide after reading such a realistic book that depicts the truth of India that many choose to be ignorant about. However, he still was determined to bring up the mistakes of the former India and its people. With one aim in mind of not letting the past be repeated by the present youth, he dived right into the colonial, religious, and diversity problems.


“One day, perhaps, the world may taste the pickles of history. They may be too strong for some palates, their smell may be overpowering, tears may rise to their eyes; I hope nevertheless that it will be possible to say of them that they possess the authentic taste of truth… that they are, despite everything, acts of love.”


1001 children born at midnight of the night of independence possessed extra powers that separated them from normal children. Our protagonist, Saleem Sinai, possesses the most dominating power to call upon a round conference. We see a different small community of India, indulged in much larger change for peace and prosperity.

The prospect of magical realism that is so wonderfully depicted in the text fails to bring out it's quality and essence in the movie in the way that we expected. Basically, because magical realism is one of the most beautiful aspects of the book that adds a sweet flow to the text without realizing we already drowning into the magical realm, without any hold to the main plot or logic. However, the movie is focusing on cinematic reality rather than creating a world mixed with the rigidness of reality and the sparks of magic. 

Midnight's Children leads us to a memorable journey, from Kashmir in 1917 to Bombay in 1977. We visualise all the main events of the post colonial period, from the ending of the British rule, to the internal wars between Hindus and Muslims, the partition of India and Pakistan, the war of Bangladesh against Pakistan and atlast, the national emergency called upon by Indira Gandhi. 

Covering these points in a two hour movie probably isn't an easy task, hence explaining the fast paced plot of the adaptation that swooshes past the 60 years quickly. The director, Deepa Mehta wanted nothing but to shoot a more realistic movie than creating fantastical scenarios. "She insisted that the magical elements will be classy, not showy, subtle, not over the top, a blend of both lyrical and classical", as pointed out. And she succeeded beautifully. After cutting out so many parts of the movie and focusing on shooting the true journey of India as well as Saleem Sinai and the relationship between them, the movie brings out the raw emotions that controlled the free storyline and we felt more connected to the plot.

In an interview with India Times, Mehta was asked about her approach to the sections involving magical realism in the book and if she intentionally wanted them quirky. She replied, "Not necessarily quirky, but I wanted them to convey the sense of magic that was grounded in reality. We used some special effects to bring those elements to life, but I didn't want to go about making Avatar or anything like that. It took a little bit of imagination, but I think the elements of magical realism are believable but restrained enough to allow the viewer to project their own thoughts."

Ahmed Sinai is suspiciously a character whose character one cannot judge. In the book, he seems to us, a dominating, stereotypical husband, unaware, yet too ignorant to care about the repressing feelings of his wife for her former husband and lover, Nadir Khan. This attitude of his, driven by his own self ego and pride, is, we believe, one of the reasons why Saleem Sinai's childhood was a burden of his father's expectations. The movie quite memorably depicts Ahmed as a caring husband in the start, however, after the doctor's revelation, he immediately closed himself off, blinded by rage and perhaps a blow to his self esteem.

The actor, Rajat Kapoor, who plays the role of Ahmed Sinai, also does a good job in transforming his character entirely different from the book, yet not leaving Ahmed's root behaviours and emotions behind.

Padma is a flat, yet somehow significant character in the book, who throws in some humour in the book between the breaks as well as acting like a patient listener, but failing to stop the exclamatory remarks in between. With Saleem dictating to Padma, we feel the story come alive. It's Indeed, pleasantly varied in the movie. The absolutely mesmerising narration of Saleem Sinai, narrating his story in the movie is by none other than the Bookers Prize Winner, Salman Rushdie himself. This actually helps in not losing out on the literary charm and essence that the book provided to the readers with its plethora of metaphors, allegories and symbolism. Indeed, Salman Rushdie does have a unique writing style.

His surreal characters and brooding humor as well as his effusive and melodramatic prose style is what gave this book, 'Un style extraordinaire'. It's definitely not possible to depict such attributes in a movie, so it quite lost its allure there. 

Rushdie had admired “Passage to India,” by E.M Forster. However, he did not think the writing style of the author was suitable for the subject. “The one thing I felt about Forster is that his writing, it’s fastidious, it is precise, it’s cool. And if there’s one thing I think about India, it’s none of those things,” Rushdie had commented. Hence, enter Midnight's Children which was the hard work of six years and immediately, it felt right. The push behind writing such a pluralistic book was to give the truth of India to India. To show the real identity of India that was hidden under the norms and the after effects of rigorous bondage of two centuries. With every step Saleem Sinai took, we see a growth of a part of India along with him. He represents India. India represents him. We see a development in the self identity that Saleem and India provide for each other. For example, the partition of India and him sent away to Pakistan to Major Zulfikar because he wasn't the blood of his father. This may explain how internal differences were led because the two communities did not think of each other as brothers, but enemies, or someone who would snatch away their rights of living. It is descriptively explained in the book when:

“It’s the first time I had read a novel where I felt the English language had been chutney-fied or actually had been reworked with Hindi in such a way that it made it very personal to Indians,” Deepa Mehta had said. 

Saleem may not have been a reliable narrator in the book. We continuously questioned if his facts were straight as he had a tendency to make up everything about him as he believed India and himself were bonded together. For example, he correlated the death of Pt. Nehru into different causes which ultimately led to his hair being pulled out by his school teacher. His character was questioned because of his desires of incest with his sister Jamila, his violent tendencies to do the wrong thing because he felt them right (like tipping off Comander Sabarmati about the extra marital affair of his wife with Homi Catarack. He did so out of revenge to his mother whom he couldn't confront about her affair with Nadir Khan). However, we see an entirely different Saleem in the movie, by the actors Darsheel Safari and Satya Bhabha. The latter was timid, shy and completely opposite from the character in the book.

The depiction of the exchange of babies in the hospital by Mary while the Prime Minister of India encourages for a new beginning poses such an impactful scene. It also indirectly shows the merge of two communities who are so blinded by hatred towards each other. Humans do not have a sign of where they belong. Love is unconditional, despite the religion. 

The novel Midnight’s Children ends with a heartbreaking ending that actually we had seen coming since the start of the book when we discovered he possessed extraordinary powers of reading people's minds. The life threatening situations thrown at him edged him closer to death until he finally did in the end, by none other than people who sensed him as a danger, motivated by Indira Gandhi's government. The ending lines left a deep ache in our heart and pointed out the bitter reality of life. History was created when he was born at the stroke of midnight, 15th August, and history was created again when his son was born, at the stroke of midnight, the night of declaration of National Emergency. 25th August, 1975:

"Yes, they will trample me underfoot, the numbers marching one two three, four hundred million five hundred six, reducing me to specks of voiceless dust, just as, all in good time, they will trample my son who is not my son, and his son who will not be his, and his who will not be his, until the thousand and first generation, until a thousand and one midnights have bestowed their terrible gifts and a thousand and one children have died, because it is the privilege and the curse of midnight's children to be both masters and victims of their times, to forsake privacy and be sucked into the annihilating whirlpool of the multitudes, and to be unable to live or die in peace." 

But the movie replaces the sad ending with a positive one, “A child and a country were born at midnight, once upon a time. Great things were expected of us both; the truth has been less glorious than the dream. But we have survived and made our way and our lives have been in spite of everything - acts of love." We see him and his son on a terrace along with his ayah, Mary Pierera and his guide, Picture Singh. The sweetest ending he deserved after decades of heartache.

Share This Post On

Tags: #salmanrushdienovels #bestseller #midnightschildrennovel #midnightschildren #salmanrushdie


Leave a comment

You need to login to leave a comment. Log-in is a Global Media House Initiative by Socialnetic Infotainment Private Limited.

TheSocialTalks was founded in 2020 as an alternative to mainstream media which is fraught with misinformation, disinformation and propaganda. We have a strong dedication to publishing authentic news that abides by the principles and ethics of journalism. We are an organisation driven by a passion for truth and justice in society.

Our team of journalists and editors from all over the world work relentlessly to deliver real stories affecting our society. To keep our operations running, We need sponsors and subscribers to our news portal. Kindly sponsor or subscribe to make it possible for us to give free access to our portal and it will help writers and our cause. It will go a long way in running our operations and publishing real news and stories about issues affecting us.

Your contributions help us to expand our organisation, making our news accessible to more everyone and deepening our impact on the media.

Support fearless and fair journalism today.