As self-adaptor, narrator & exec-producer, Salman Rushdie has only himself to blame for the failings of this faithful-to-a-fault mad dash thru his much acclaimed novel. It’s nothing less than the story of modern India (and its painful partitionings), told thru the eyes of a pair of changlings, one rich/one poor, born on the stroke of their country’s independence. Alas, Rushdie, loath to ‘kill any of his darlings’ in the screenplay, heaps on so much dramatic incident, eccentric characterization, political horrors & magical realism that the film cancels itself out by the time its ill-advised prologue wraps up. Someone on the production staff must have seen that the film needed to begin with the changlings’ birth. (Suggested opening line: 'I was born with the nose of my father.’) Instead, it all plays out like a Paki-Indian FORREST GUMP/’94, a comparison much disdained by Rushdie. Taken in parts, the film is not without its successes. (As presented, the dark reign of Indira Gandhi begs for a proper examination/dramatization.) But director Deepa Mehta can’t organize the pieces of this puzzle, and the sprawling narrative plays out like a deluxe illustrated edition in need of a scorecard.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Most of the film is in English, but the many subtitles which do show up are unchanged from the film’s big screen theatrical release and look mighty small (positively squinty) on an average-sized monitor. But this Virgil Films DVD comes without extras of any sort.