Midnight's Children (2012)

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Released 31-Jul-2013

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2012
Running Time 139:44
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Deepa Mehta
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Satya Bhabha
Shahana Goswami
Rajat Kapoor
Shabana Azmi
Ronit Roy
Siddharth
Seema Biswas
Case ?
RPI ? Music Nitin Sawhney


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     On the stroke of midnight 14 August 1947, as India celebrates its independence from Great Britain, two baby boys are born in the same Bombay hospital. One baby is the child of Amina (Shahana Goswami), the wife of a wealthy Muslim businessmen, the other the son of a Hindu street performer who dies in childbirth. Based upon notions of inequality, Mary (Seema Biswas), a nurse at the hospital, switches the babies so that Saleem (played as an adult by Satya Bhahba), the son of the gutters, grows up in a privileged Muslim household while Shiva (Siddharth) fights for his life on the streets. Yet the children born in the first hour of India’s independence have special gifts, with Saleem and Shiva, born on the stroke of midnight, the most powerful. Indeed, Saleem is able to see, hear and communicate with all the other Midnight’s Children in his head, somewhat of a mixed blessing!

     Over the course of three decades Saleem is sent to live with his aunt in Pakistan and her husband, a high ranking general, where he is on the periphery of the military coup that extinguished democracy in Pakistan. Saleem is also involved in both the war against India and the civil war in which East Pakistan become Bangladesh. There, in Dacca, he meets Pavati (Shriya Saran), one of the midnight’s children who is a magician and returns with her to India and a life of poverty. In contrast, Shiva has risen to become a high ranking officer in the Indian army, so their fortunes had been in fact reversed. Shiva is also a trusted aide to the Prime Minister Indira Ghandi, and takes a main role in the “Emergency” she declared, where the fates of Saleem, Pavati and Shiva, as well as the fates of all the children of midnight, are linked together.

     Midnight’s Children is based upon the 1980 novel by Salman Rushdie that won the Booker Prize in 1981 and has twice been awarded the Booker of Bookers (1993 and 2008). It is an epic, sprawling novel covering five generations of one family, with a subsidiary cast of thousands, and incidents from six decades of the history of the Indian subcontinent, from 1917 to 1977. The novel, and film, includes localities as varied as Kashmir, Agra, Bombay, Karachi (Pakistan) and Dacca (Bangladesh). The novel is part fantasy, part history, part social and political criticism and is very surreal, making it almost unfilmable. But that of course is a challenge in itself and in this case the screenplay was written by Rushdie himself, thus guaranteeing fealty to the ideas of the book, and co-written and directed by Deepa Mehta. Her CV includes the acclaimed trilogy about aspects of Indian society, Fire (1996), Earth (1998) and Water (2005). This last film while being shot in Varanasi earned Mehta the ire of Hindu fundamentalists and caused the film to be shut down and moved to Sri Lanka, so she would have some concept of the ban upon Midnight’s Children that was in place in India for some time. So if the novel is to be filmed, these two have the credentials to do so successfully.

     Have they succeeded? Yes and no. In may be that Rushdie was actually too close to the material when a more savage hand may have been able to make the film more coherent and involving for an audience. In reality, the scope of the novel is just too big, and even at a film length of 140 minutes, characters such as Saleem’s grandfather and Amina’s first husband and greatest love just appear and then disappear as the story needs to keep moving. Indeed even important characters, such as Pavati and Shiva, just do not have any time to develop. Even Saleem, who takes over half an hour to get born and then at least the same to get to adulthood, is more a cipher for the events taking place on the subcontinent than a developing character with whom we can relate. The result is that in the film we do not really get to know and understand the characters to any extent, something a novel has the leisure to achieve.

     On the other hand, Midnight’s Children is intermittently powerful, such as the slum clearance during the emergency, and often the images in the widescreen frame of the lakes, countryside and cities look spectacular. As well, the characters are sufficiently well distinguished so that the audience does at least know who they are and their location, and the voiceover narration, by Rushdie himself, provides enough additional insights for the audience to be able to follow what is happening. Midnight’s Children is certainly not a poor film and I enjoyed it. Fans of the book will find a lot to interest them, but for others it may be a character and location too far. If a short book like The Hobbit can be made into a trilogy, Midnight’s Children is at least mini-series material!

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Midnight’s Children is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original theatrical ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     The print is reasonably sharp in close-up and there are some beautiful images of Indian city and rural landscapes (or Sri Lanka in this case). Colours on the costumes, especially during the weddings, and of the city dwellers are deep and vibrant, blacks excellent and shadow detail fine. On the other hand, this is a print with excessive glare in a lot of scenes which affects sharpness, contrast and brightness. Some of this is deliberate, such as during the Midnight’s Children congresses in Saleems’ mind, but in a number of other scenes the glare off white clothes or when the light source is behind the actor is quite pronounced. Otherwise, however, marks and artefacts were absent.

     English subtitles for the hearing impaired are available in a largish white font. When subtitles are turned off, smaller white burnt in subtitles translate the sections of Indian languages.

     A print that looks stunning in places but evinces a lot of glare.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps plus an English descriptive audio for the vision impaired Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192 Kbps by a female voice.

     Dialogue was sometimes hard to hear due to accents when the subtitles came in handy. However, the narration was always easy to understand. The surrounds were not overly aggressive but were used well for ambient sound, such as weather effects, plus trains, crowds and the fireworks and the music. The sub-woofer supported the score, fireworks and the explosions.

    Lip synchronisation was fine.

     The original score by Nitin Sawhney was, not surprisingly, very Indian in style so suited the film.

    A good audio track without issues.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    No extras, not even trailers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     As far as I can tell, none of the other versions in other regions of Midnight’s Children have any extras either. Buy local.

Summary

     Midnight’s Children, based on the novel of the same name, is a sprawling saga but in reality the scope of the novel is just too big which means that we do not get to know and understand the characters to any extent, something a novel can achieve. Still worth a look, especially for fans of the novel.

     The video shows a lot of glare, the audio is good. There are no extras, but there is nothing else on DVD in other regions.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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