“Midnight’s Children,” Salman Rushdie’s sprawling 1981 novel, has been turned into an equally sprawling, though highly uneven, movie by the Canada-based director Deepa Mehta. Rushdie himself, who has said in interviews that he’s been more influenced as a novelist by movies than by literature, wrote the screenplay.
It’s about a pair of children, Saleem (Satya Bhabha), born to a poor single mother, and Shiva (Siddarth), from a wealthy family, who are both delivered in a Bombay hospital at the stroke of midnight on Aug. 15, 1947, the moment when India claimed its independence from Britain. Switched at birth by a nurse at the hospital, the boys each live out the lives that fate intended for the other.
The film’s political scope is wide, beginning in 1917 and extending for sixty years, and, especially in the first hour or so, the antic, magical tone of Rushdie’s novel is sustained. Things bog down eventually, and Bhabha is not a strong enough actor to fill out his role, but there are enough intermittent passages of power and beauty to get you through the slow spots. Grade: B (Unrated.)