Midnight’s Children on BBC Radio

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Midnight’s Children remains a forever cherished novel to me. It was about 6 years back when a friend’s father insisted that both of us read it. I borrowed it from him and got hooked to it immediately.

Cover: Midnight’s Children on BBC Radio

Salman Rushdie was my ascent to magical realism, not that I was familiar with the genre at the time. He just sounded as a lunatic who somehow turned the events of his protagonist’s life to run parallel with the history of India after independence.

I was fascinated with the writing right away. Rushdie has his way with words like a musician with his instruments. Pulling the right cords and music reverberating to your pleasure. While you remain enchanted he takes you to a distant land with strange people who somehow believe that their destiny is tied up with India’s. They have a part to play in the country’s fate. After 6 years this book remains one of my all-time favourites.

I have watched the movie adaptation of the book but disliked it straightway. It does not capture the magical realism of the book. While the young Sinai is convincing the other characters fall flat. BBC’s dramatic radio adaptation is, however, very different from the movie.
BBC has been clear right from the beginning promoting it as an adaptation and not as an audiobook. Therefore, it carefully picks the novel and preserves the authority of Rushdie’s words without making it sound like a monotone narration.

The radio adaptation of the book is filled with the aches of the mother and wrath of the father, literally. The drama is outpouring throughout with background noise and thoughts sway around as the narration goes on. There are Hindi and Urdu words sprinkled across to establish the setting of the novel. There is often remorse and recollection in the voices. The actors or should I say the speakers have done a great job playing different characters. My favourite remains Salim and Adam Sinai. The mother’s ‘whatisname’ amuses you throughout.

Through all the dramatic narration, to a reader’s delight, the story remains intact. Adam falls in love with his wife in parts and falls out of it in parts too. ‘Women should marry men not whatsitname, mice!’ But Mumtaz goes against her to marry Nadir literally living in the basement like mice do. Mary’s secret act of revolution costs Shiva his privileged life. ‘The rich become poor and poor become rich’. Abracadabra somehow becomes Ansalah ansalaha but the magic stays undefiled. Lastly, this remains the story Adam Sinai narrates to his son – a story of baby Sinai’s family.

To state the obvious, this adaptation should not be missed.

Another book in Magical realism highly recommended: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton.

Veena Choudhary

An avid reader and history fanatic.

Mumbai, MH merakipost.com