Film based on Salman Rushdie’s novel may not be released in India

By AFP
Published: September 10, 2012
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Rushdie’s novel includes highly critical descriptions of late prime minister Indira Gandhi. PHOTO: AFP

Rushdie’s novel includes highly critical descriptions of late prime minister Indira Gandhi. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI: A film of Salman Rushdie’s 1981 prize-winning novel “Midnight’s Children” may not be released in the country, its director has said, blaming “insecure politicians”.

The adaptation, which has been shown at the Toronto International Film Festival in Canada, is due for worldwide release in October or November, but has yet to find an Indian distributor.

“Salman has often said that the book was his love letter to India. I think the film reflects that love,” director Deepa Mehta told the Hindustan Times in Toronto.

“What a pity if insecure politicians deprive the people of India (of the chance) to make up their own minds about what the film means,” she said.

Rushdie’s Booker prize-winning novel includes highly critical descriptions of the late prime minister Indira Gandhi, who suspended democracy in India between 1975 and 1977 in a period known as “the Emergency”.

The Gandhi family remain at the centre of political life in India, with Indira’s daughter-in-law Sonia Gandhi the president of the ruling Congress party and Sonia’s son Rahul seen as a potential future prime minister.

The Hindustan Times said that Indira’s thinly-disguised character is depicted on screen in “a manner that conveys an almost Voldemort-like menace” — a reference to Harry Potter’s arch enemy.

Rushdie’s 1988 book “The Satanic Verses” remains banned in India for allegedly insulting Islam.

The author, who was born in Mumbai, was forced to withdraw from a literary festival in Jaipur this year after death threats and angry protests from Islamist activists.

He later criticised Indian politicians for pandering to hardliners and said the country was failing to protect the right to freedom of expression.

Rushdie spent a decade in hiding after Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa in 1989 calling for his death due to passages in “The Satanic Verses”.

The film version of “Midnight’s Children”, which was adapted by Rushdie, was shot in Sri Lanka, where the government came under pressure from Iran to stop the project.

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Reader Comments (11)

  • BlackJack
    Sep 10, 2012 - 2:05PM

    Unnacceptable if the Indian govt deprives us of this because of a few political philistines. Midnight’s Children paints India on an amazing canvas the likes of which has not been before in the literary world – and the movie will help in introducing the book to many who haven’t had the chance or interest to do so till now. Shame on them.

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  • Sir King Kong Bunty
    Sep 10, 2012 - 2:14PM

    I can already tell you that it will be banned in Pakistan. Hopefully Naseruddin Shah will play the role of Sina.

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  • Raw is War
    Sep 10, 2012 - 2:46PM

    statnic government.

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  • Feroz
    Sep 10, 2012 - 4:21PM

    I may not be a great fan of Salman Rushdie’s writing or books but I admire the man for his courage and conviction. Recommend

  • mr. righty rightist
    Sep 10, 2012 - 4:45PM

    Welcome to the Islamic republic of Hindustan.

    Anti-Hindu, pro-mulsim, pseudosecular congress is at it again.

    However, given the fact that Deepa Mehta is one of the worst filmmakers ever, it’s not such a big loss.

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  • Sep 10, 2012 - 5:24PM

    It really is a love letter to India. What a book!

    I am reading it now and I am taken away by the sheer beauty of the writing, the India that Rushdie paints with his words. Absolutely magnificent.

    I will watch the movie, but it will be really sad if I’ve to watch it online.

    The book is recommended for one and all.

    To know that it has not only won a Booker Prize but also was elected the best Book of all Booker winning books, is a testament to the fact of how good Midnight’s Children really is.

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  • Rakib
    Sep 10, 2012 - 5:56PM

    Firstly, the movie is not even completed by Deepa Mehta and comments here show as if it is already banned. Secondly, where were the great fighters for freedom of expression when very same Deepa’s movie “Fire” was so much hated by prudes that they burnt down cinema halls & shooting of “Water” had to be abandoned due to riots? http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/03/movies/03wate.html

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  • Atheist, India
    Sep 10, 2012 - 6:16PM

    See this is why the pirate bay rocks!!

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  • BlackJack
    Sep 10, 2012 - 7:04PM

    @Rakib:
    In both those cases, the great fighters for freedom of expression were still on the side of freedom. And none of the comments say that the movie will be banned in India.

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  • Rakib
    Sep 10, 2012 - 9:27PM

    @BlackJack:

    One telling comment, “ifs” & “buts” notwithstanding, is “Shame on them”. And considering the context it is premature to imply that something that should heap “shame” has already happened. Yet another comment says “statnic government” (sic) whatever that may mean but it does sound like censure of Censors or of GoI about an event that may or may not occur at all in the future. May be the fault lies with Deepa for showing frustration at her failed marketing efforts and blaming others. Multiplexes do not find “arty” films a good business anyway even if it is an Oscar winning “Slumdog M.”

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  • BlackJack
    Sep 10, 2012 - 10:10PM

    @Rakib:
    You are possibly right. I guess my frustration with the govt seeps into even those comments where the blame is not yet justified.

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