Deepa Metha's Toronto Pic Midnight's Children Effectively Banned In India
She has won a slew of awards around the worldwide festival circuit and an Indian Academy Award nomination for titles including Fire, Water and Bollywood/Hollywood, but Indian-born filmmaker Deepa Metha's latest Midnight's Children may never be available to Indian audiences because the current government's aversion to the film, which had its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival, has made the title unpalatable to distributors. The story, written by Salman Rushdie, who himself received a death Fatwa from the late Ayatollah Khomeini for another one of his novels, The Satanic Verses mirrors India's history told through the emotional coming-of-age of a young man.
India's ruling Congress Party is the same party of late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who ruled the world's largest democracy from the mid-'60s to the late '70s and again in the '80s. The story includes a scathing indictment of the Prime Minister who was assassinated in 1984, causing the ire of officials though no outright ban is currently in place. Instead, distributors apparently fear soft reprisals and are avoiding the title.
"Salman has often said that the book was his love letter to India," said Metha as quoted in the Hindustan Times. "I think the film reflects that love. What a pity if insecure politicians deprive the people of India to make up their own minds about what the film means, or does not mean, to them."
This is not the first time that Metha has run afoul of authorities at home. Hindu right-wingers prevented her from filming Water in the country and she shifted production to neighboring Sri Lanka (where she also filmed Midnight's Children). And Rushdie's Satanic Versus remains banned in India.
"Ultimately, Midnight’s Children is about the emotional growth of a young man that parallels his country," said Metha. "An allegory that almost everyone is relating to, despite color, gender, geographic boundaries."
Midnight's Children will open in 40 countries beginning this fall.