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No takers for new Rushdie film

Distributors not keen on 'Midnight's Children' adaptation

Salman Rushdie. Picture: Ken Conley Salman Rushdie. Picture: Ken Conley
  • Swati Deb, New Delhi
  • India
  • September 13, 2012
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Distributors in India have said no to a film adaptation of Salman Rushdie's novel Midnight’s Children.

The film, now showing at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it has been bought by around 40 worldwide distributors, is based on the controversial 1981 novel that tells the story of modern India through the life of a man born at midnight on August 15, 1947, when India attained independence from the British rule.

The movie is set for worldwide release in October, but Indian analysts predict it would not do well there.

Though directed by well known Indian-born Canadian director Deepa Mehta, the cast is largely unknown.

“Indian cinema goers associate well with popular star casts. This film does not have any star with mass appeal,” said trade analyst Komal Nahta.

Box office observer Vinod Mirani agreed that the film lacks appeal. “I feel this is not an attractive project for Indian viewers,” he told ucanews.com from Mumbai, India’s commercial and movie capital.

“Any resemblance to politicians and their portrayal in films leads to problems in India. Therefore, distributors are not forthcoming," he said. “Who wants controversy?”

The novel critically depicts Indira Gandhi during her imposition of "internal emergency" in 1975 and the suspension of freedoms of speech and press.

Sanjay Ghai, a distributor with Mukta Arts, said the film comes with "double risks."

"The business may not be good and at the same time there are chances of strong and adverse political reactions,” he said.

Rushdie himself remains a controversial figure in India. In early 2012, his appearance at the Jaipur Literary Festival in the western state of Rajasthan was canceled after noisy protests from Muslim groups.

The episode provoked fears for free speech and criticism of the government and ruling Congress Party.

Rushdie's 1988 book The Satanic Verses is still banned in India. The book, which earned a fatwa from late Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini, calling for the writer to be killed, was banned in India during the tenure of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Despite this, Mirani says if the film is popular overseas, there will be demand in India, as well, and a distributor could pick up the film after its initial release.

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