NEW DELHI – A new film of Salman Rushdie’s 1981 novel “Midnight’s Children”, which is set in India after independence, may not be released in the country, its director has said, blaming “insecure politicians”.
The adaptation, which has been showed at the Toronto International Film Festival in Canada, is due for worldwide release in October or November, but has yet to find an Indian distributor.
“Salman has often said that the book was his love letter to India. I think the film reflects that love,” director Deepa Mehta told the Hindustan Times in Toronto.
“What a pity if insecure politicians deprive the people of India (of the chance) to make up their own minds about what the film means,” she said.
Rushdie’s Booker prize-winning novel includes highly critical descriptions of the late prime minister Indira Gandhi, who suspended democracy in India between 1975 and 1977 in a period known as “the Emergency”.
The Gandhi family remains at the center of political life in India, with Indira’s daughter-in-law Sonia Gandhi the president of the ruling Congress party and Sonia’s son Rahul seen as a potential future prime minister.
The Hindustan Times said Indira’s thinly-disguised character is depicted on screen in “a manner that conveys an almost Voldemort-like menace” – a reference to Harry Potter’s arch enemy.
Rushdie’s 1988 book “The Satanic Verses” remains banned in India for allegedly insulting Islam.
The author, who was born in Mumbai, was forced to withdraw from a literary festival in Jaipur this year after death threats and angry protests from Islamist activists.
He later said that “religious fanaticism, political opportunism and public apathy” were seriously undermining freedom of expression in India.
Rushdie spent a decade in hiding after Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa in 1989 calling for his death due to passages in “The Satanic Verses”.
The film version of “Midnight’s Children”, which was adapted by Rushdie, was shot in Sri Lanka, where the government came under pressure from Iran to stop the project.