New Delhi: Deepa Mehta was very careful since the beginning of the shooting of 'Midnight's Children', so the proceedings were kept secret as she feared protests from fundamentalist groups, something that happened during the filming of 'Water' also.
Mehta has consulted Salman Rushdie, the original writer of 'Midnight's Children', for the screenplay, and together they have come up with a film which can make many eyebrows frown. Interestingly, the current scenario is already in chaos due to the 'Vishwaroopam' row, so a fresh controversy is looming over Mehta's film as well.
In an interview given to IANS, Deepa Mehta talked about the growing intolerance towards films like 'Midnight's Children' and 'Water', "The point is, despite the protests, 'Water' did get made. And despite all the protests Rushdie will be welcomed and celebrated in the land of his birth by folks who appreciate the written word and are not small-minded bigots. As the ad for freedom of expression goes, they can burn books. They cannot silence his voice."
The film stars Satya Bhabha, Shriya Saran, Siddharth Narayan, Anupam Kher, Shabana Azmi, Seema Biswas, Samrat Chakrabarti, Anita Majumdar and Rahul Bose in pivotal roles. A group of Congress party workers raised their objection towards the film when it was showcased at the International Film Festival of Kerala. Mehta reacted to that in an interview given to PTI, "The film is not just about Mrs Gandhi but it is an aspect of what happened. I don't think she is portrayed in any other way except in a very accurate way."
She further said, "Emergency is a reality and the facts are accurate otherwise censor board wouldn't have been so generous with me. There is nothing which is not historically accurate in it."
However, the problems for the film don't end here, some religious organisations always had issues with the novel's content. The book is a narration by Saleem Sinai which throws a new light on India of post independence period. It took the style of magical realism to a new height in Indian sub-continent. The book is called 'Midnight's Children' because Saleem Sinai, the protagonist of the book, is born at the midnight on August 15, 1947. Sinai has an amazing sense of smell and is hyper sensitive towards certain things.
Satya Bhabha is playing the role of Saleem Sinai in the film while Shriya Saran will be seen as Parvathy. Some of the clips of the film have been released and thus the audience is likely to see Shriya Saran in a role which is almost true to the actual character of Parvathy in the book. This can emerge as another bone of contention for a few religious factions.
'Midnight's Children' is an important book, not because of the controversies but because of the documentation it does of Indian middle class and their religious sentiments.
Rushdie understands the scenario and thus he says, "This is a different kind of emergency, it's a cultural emergency in India. Culture is the new target and artists do not have gangs to defend themselves. Culture and art is not hard to attack."
Now, when the debate of freedom of expression is out in the public domain due to the 'Vishwaroopam' row, will the common audience be able to appreciate the aesthetic sensibilities of Deepa Mehta's 'Midnight's Children'? (With inputs from IANS, PTI and CNN-IBN)