Mehta wraps shooting of “Midnight’s Children” in Sri Lanka

Courtesy of Press Trust of India

India-born Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta has finished shooting for the first film adaption of controversial author Salman Rushdie’s 1981 novel ‘Midnight’s Children’ at a secret location inSri Lankato keep the fundamentalists at bay. The filming had to be kept ultra-secret, hidden away inSri Lankainstead ofIndiaorPakistanas both the director and writer of the film are controversial figures. “He’s got the Muslims….and I’ve got the Hindus,” Globe and Mail quoted Mehta as saying.

Indian-British novelist, Rushdie, was the centre of a major controversy for his novel “The Satanic Verses’, earning fatwa fromIran’s Islamic regime in 1989 sentencing him to death. Mehta herself is no stranger to controversy. Her films Water and Fire had also ignited the wraths of Hindu fundamentalists. The filmmaker, who had found a refuge in Sri Lanka to finish Water, then chose the country as the location for shooting. In many ways,Colombo made a better Mumbai than the real city does. More of the century-old architecture has survived there.

But, the long reach of the fundamentalists has found them. After two weeks of shooting, Mehta’s husband and producer of the film, David Hamilton, received notice from the government saying permission to film had been withdrawn after displeasure was expressed byIran. Distraught, Mehta and Hamilton appealed to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who allowed them to go ahead with the shooting, the paper said.

So they changed the working title and they have kept secret as much as they can which was a huge challenge, when there are 800 extras in the crowd scenes. “We really wanted to do this film,” Mehta said. “And the price is silence.”

The film, which is in English, Hindi and Urdu, will be released as Winds of Change in the first half of 2012. Rushdie wrote the script. The cast include Seema Biswas, who starred in Mehta’s Water, Rahul Bose and Shahana Goswami. For the main character of Saleem Sinai, Mehta chose a near-unknown, Satya Bhabha, a half-Indian, half-German-Jewish actor who grew up in England and the United States. Mehta had dreamed of a Bollywood megastar such as Imran Khan playing Saleem, but couldn’t afford that. The novel, which won the 1981 Booker prize, deals withIndia’s pre- and post-independence history through the eyes of Saleem Sinai, whose birth coincides with that of independentIndiaon the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947. In 1993, the novel it was chosen as the “Booker of Bookers” – the best novel to have won the prize to date.

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