Beloved novel turned into a movie: Not a good sign when they flub the title.
Lots of people know that television has become equal to the novel as a narrative art form — and now Salman Rushdie does, too! But first, let me declare my horror at the new title of the film version of his greatest novel, Midnight’s Children: It’s now called Winds of Change.
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Far be it from me to make sweeping statements (shut up, you in the back), but I find it hard not to see this as a primo example of how and why Hollywood is gradually turning film into an irrelevant sideshow, while television ascends to the pinnacle of aesthetic acheivement.
What kind of nincompoop would take a specific, evocative, meaningful and sexy title like “Midnight’s Children” and turn it into the meaningless cliche of “Winds of Change?”
I certainly can’t believe it was Rushdie or his co-screenwriter Deepa Mehta, who’s also directing. More likely it was no single person but a committee of bright, shallow, greedy producers hedging their bets.
The stupidity is almost beyond reckoning. Just because a bunch a smart guys sitting around a table in L.A. (or Bombay; this appears to be a joint U.S.-Indian production) are insensible to the stature and familiarity of Midnight’s Children doesn’t mean the title lacks in marketing quality.
I mean, COME ON! This is the only novel that’s won the Man Booker, Britain’s most prestigious literary prize, three times. Count ‘em! Three! Times! This is the novel that established Rushdie as a world-class novelist. It’s the novel that revolutionized Anglo-Indian fiction and galvanized a generation of Indian writers.
What’s more, the title “Midnight’s Children” provides the key to understanding much of what Rushdie is up to in this sly, funny, outrageously ambitious novel, an allegory of Indian independence that centers on children born between midnight and 1 a.m., Aug. 15, 1947, the hour when the nation gained its freedom from British colonial rule.
Google “Midnight’s Children” and you get a page full of hits, all directly related to Rushdie’s novel. Google “Winds of Change” and what do you get? Let’s see: Links to a video for a Scorpions song…to an activist blog site/chat room…to a famous speech by Harold Macmillan…to an alternative energy site….to a (way cool) NASA page of deep space photos.
In other words, the filmmakers are switching out a specific, content-rich title for a bland, generic one with almost no meaning. The picture, made by Indian talent, produced by American suits, doesn’t come out until 2012. Maybe someone will do the right thing.
Meanwhile, Rushdie himself has made a little splash by declaring that television is now the equal to the novel, and he’s writing a new science-fiction show (!). But I think this is a subject that deserves its own consideration. So come back tomorrow if you want to learn more, praise TV or defend the honor of literature.