[ CANADA ]
Midnight's Children evokes mixed responses in Toronto
Director Deepa Mehta and author Sir Salman Rushdie.
Oscar-nominated Indian-Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta's long-awaited adaptation of Sir Salman Rushdie's Booker Prize-winning novel Midnight's Children evoked mixed critical reactions at the 37th Toronto International Film Festival. The response of the general public at the Roy Thomson Hall in central Toronto was enthusiastic. The festival hosted a gala presentation of the two-and-a-half-hour film earlier this month.
(L-R) Actress Anita Majumdar, Actor Zaib Shaikh, Writer/Producer Salman Rushdie, Actor Ronit Roy, Director Deepa Mehta, Actor Siddharth, Actress Shriya Saran and Actor Satya Bhabha at the "Midnight's Children" Premiere at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival at Roy Thomson Hall on Sept. 9, 2012 in Toronto, Canada.
North American critics, however, were less than impressed.
Toronto's The Globe and Mail wrote: "Thanks to Rushdie's own screenplay, and Deepa Mehta's direction, Midnight's Children is now a film-it's just not an especially good film." The daily's reviewer said: "Competent, yes, featuring a vast and solid cast along with multiple locations and abundant plot. But that's part of the problem. With the book's wryly witty tone mostly gone, all that's left is plot—diminished yet recitative, like episodic milestones duly checked off on a labored journey." The Globe and Mail concluded: "There's scant flow and consequently, from us, scant engagement. We look at the unfolding spectacle with our eyes wide but our emotions closed—so much to see, so little to feel." Midnight's Children had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival before arriving in Toronto, Mehta's hometown.
The Hollywood Reporter too gave the film an average review. "Nothing less than an epic, panoramic look at the history of India and Pakistan over a 50- year period, the film is ambitious and often sumptuous to watch but not always dramatically satisfying," it said. "Perhaps one problem is that the film is too reverential toward its literary source, struggling to incorporate most of Rushdie's teeming subplots. The result is that it becomes too difficult to find a narrative focus," it added.
Filmmaker Deepa Mehta and Sir Salman Rushdie are the two key figures behind the film. Sir Salman is also the film's off-screen narrator, a role in which he does a remarkably good job, adding a layer of wit and insight that holds Midnight's Children together for the most part. The picaresque tale of two boys who are born at the precise moment that India shrugged off the British yoke in 1947 and are, therefore, "handcuffed to history" and to each other's fate has been condensed to fit the film's running time. The huge cast of Midnight's Children includes Shabana Azmi, Anupam Kher, Seema Biswas, Rahul Bose, Charles Dance, Shriya Saran and Shahana Goswami, besides newcomer Satya Bhabha as Saleem Sinai and southern Indian star Siddharth as Shiva.
At a moderated conversation between Mehta and Sir Salman in the previous edition of the Toronto International Film Festival, the two key figures behind the film revealed that they had originally approached A-list Bollywood stars for the key roles.
They abandoned the plan when the demands, monetary and otherwise, of the Mumbai actors went from the ridiculous to the bizarre. "It didn't work out, so we opted to cast actors that were right rather than those that were big," Mehta said last year.
The film has the backing of Telefilm Canada and will be released in this country by Hussain Amarshi's Mongrel Media, which was the key backer of Mehta's controversial 2005 film, Water.
Canada honors Indian-origin journalist
Indian-origin journalist Sultan Jessa has been presented with the Queen Elizabeth diamond jubilee medal by Canada's Governor- General David Johnston at a special ceremony here in recognition of his remarkable service. The medal, specially created to mark the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II, was presented to Canadians for their significant achievement and remarkable service.
The retired, Tanzania-born journalist has scored a hat trick to mark Queen Elizabeth's accession to the British throne. He was presented with the Queen's silver jubilee medal in 1977 and the golden jubilee medal in 2002. "It is quite an honor to receive all three medals," said Jessa, who has previously received the Order of Canada, the country's most prestigious and highest civilian order for 35 years of community service. "It encourages you to continue to help others. You don't seek recognition, but it's heartwarming when the work you do is appreciated," he said.
In 2010, Jessa was selected as one among Canada's top 25 immigrants. This award is given to people who have not only succeeded in Canada but have made a difference in their adopted country.
Born in Moshi on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, the former editor and publisher of Northern News in Arusha, at one time worked for The Nationalist and Standard in Dar es Salaam before moving to Nairobi to work for the Daily and Sunday Nation.
He moved to Canada in 1973 and started working for Standard- Freeholder, a newspaper owned by the Thomson chain. Six years after arriving in Canada, Jessa was made Citizen of the Year of Cornwall, Ontario. Jessa has received numerous honors from municipal, provincial and federal governments. The journalist has also been honored by Rotary, Kinsmen and the Ontario Medical Association. An Ismaili, he has a rare distinction of being honored by the Catholic, Jewish and Sikh communities.
[ By satish visavadia ]