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Midnight tryst at lit meet

Saleem Sinai, “handcuffed to history” by the moment of his birth, made history otherwise too, fetching for his creator the Booker Prize in 1981 and the “Booker of Bookers” a little over a decade later. And that historic chapter of India’s literary lore will now be a part of the Calcutta Literary Meet later this month.

Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children and its celluloid adaptation by Deepa Mehta will be the focus of the “Afterword” session on the opening evening of the Calcutta Literary Meet, to be held at the book fair from January 30 to February 3, in association with The Telegraph.

Taking the stage to discuss the many points of convergence and divergence between page and screen will be director Deepa Mehta, producer David Hamilton and actor Rahul Bose, who plays Zulfikar, a father figure to Saleem in Pakistan.

“This year, Calcutta Literary Meet will be celebrating 100 years of Indian cinema too and an important facet of that is movie adaptations of literary works. So with Midnight’s Children releasing on February 1 in India, we thought it was very apt to host a session on it,” said Malavika Banerjee, the organiser of the lit meet, which steps into its second year in 2013.

But what about the author?

“Of course, having the author and the film-maker in conversation would have been ideal. And we would have loved to host Salman Rushdie. But the logistics proved to be a problem,” Malavika replied.

While the exact reason why Rushdie won’t be at the lit meet isn’t really clear, given the frenzy that his absence had triggered at the Jaipur Literature Festival last year, one can’t fault organisers for being extra cautious. “Because of the Rushdie row, sadly no other session at JLF got any attention or coverage,” festival co-director Namita Gokhale had rued to Metro a few months back.

But the organisers of Calcutta Literary Meet are taking heart from the fact that Mehta had worked closely with Rushdie to adapt his 600-page novel into a 130-page script. “We hope his absence will be made up by the fact that Deepa was in close collaboration with the author during the making of the film,” said Malavika.

Rushdie has not only written the screenplay, he’s also the executive producer and narrator for the movie. The story revolves around two boys, born at the stroke of midnight on the day of Indian Independence and switched at birth, and the fate of the newborn nation, infused with Rushdie’s unique magic realism.

The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September to mixed reviews. In India, the film was shown at the International Film Festival of Kerala in December but further screenings were cancelled after Congress activists protested, alleging that it showed Indira Gandhi in bad light.

Midnight’s Children is poised for an all-India commercial release on February 1. Fingers crossed.