Deepa Mehta offers a sumptuous tale of India.
Deepa Mehta (Canada/United Kingdom, Gala Presentations)
Sunday, September 9, 6:30 p.m.
Roy Thomson Hall (60 Simcoe Street)
Monday, September 10, 9 a.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 (350 King Street West)
To describe Deepa Mehta’s rich, multigenerational love letter to India as epic may still be an understatement. Adapting the lengthy Salman Rushdie novel—work done in part by Rushdie himself, in his first feature screenplay—proves to have its hurdles, yet the film emerges as a vibrant fairy tale of fantastical proportions.
A sense of the scale: we begin with our main character’s grandfather, before learning the particulars of how Saleem Sinai (Satya Bhabha) came into existence, on the exact date of India’s independence from British colonialism. A pauper’s child, Saleem was switched at birth with Shiva (Siddarth), the son of a wealthy family, who would naturally become his rival throughout life.
All of the children born around midnight that night find themselves endowed with special powers. Saleem’s is the ability to bring them all together with his nose. Somehow, Mehta creates a tone whereby that revelation isn’t quite as jarring and strange as it sounds.
The story unfolds over several decades, introducing a whole mess of characters and plot threads that, while overwhelming, never confuse or veer too far to the tangential. Yes, there are segments that are less absorbing than others (likely a natural consequence of attempting to trim down your own book), but they hardly detract from the achievements on display. Mehta reaffirms her status of one of Canada’s preeminent filmmakers by tackling an exhaustingly ambitious project, in which one man’s tumultuous life reflects his country’s.