Fans of Salman Rushdie’s 1981 high-concept allegorical Booker Prize winner have waited many long years for the movie adaptation. Presumably, its magic realism and ambitious historical canvas were barriers. Even this moderately budgeted British-Canadian production had to be filmed in Sri Lanka to avoid potential protest by either Muslim or Hindu fundamentalists. The result, directed by Deepa Mehta (Oscar-nominated for Water), is a perfectly serviceable and handsome-looking potted history of independent India, by way of its central, telepathic protagonist Saleem (Satya Bhabha), who is exactly the same age as the country. The story moves around a great deal and covers all the key events – Partition; Bangladeshi independence; the Emergency (1975-77) – and it wouldn’t be too rude, I hope, to compare it to Forrest Gump. Apparently greatly streamlined from the novel – by Mehta and Rushdie himself, who also narrates as the older Saleem – this is a decent enough account of the birth of a nation, as long as you believe in magic.
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