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At the Telluride world premiere of director Deepa Mehta‘s adaptation of Salman Rushdie‘s Booker Prize-winning novel Midnight’s Chidren, the author, a 2001 Telluride fest guest director and frequent visitor, revealed that the film version was no big payday for him. “I sold the rights for a dollar,” he said, adding that option extentions boosted his earnings to $3. He waited 31 years to make the movie partly because he wanted a happy experience comparable to the ones his friend Hanif Kureishi had with Stephen Frears on My Beautiful Laundrette and Paul Auster had with Wayne Wang‘s Smoke and its follow-up Blue in the Face.
Rushdie said he enjoyed a good working relationship on Mehta, with whom he began the process of adapting his novel in 2008. Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, he explained that the film is a different creature than his book. “It’s not just an adaptation of the novel,” he said. “We should think of it as a relative of the book. There’s a strong family resemblance.”
The film has a vast novelistic sweep, with 64 locations and 127 speaking roles, but while he had to trim much of the book, powerful scenes also were added. “There are scenes that aren’t in the novel, and they’re some of my favorites,” Rushdie said.
The most crucial is the relationship of the central characters, a rich baby and a poor one switched at birth by a hospital worker striking a blow for social justice. In the film, they have a climactic confrontation. “In the novel, the two never meet,” he said. “If you’ve done something as big as exchanging babies in a movie, you have to have them meet.” Rushdie heartily approves of the new scene, saying, “If I’d been smart enough 30 years ago, I would have put it in the book.”
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