At The Stroke of Midnight

He's gorgeous and he's about to go global, meet Satya Bhabha

Posted: 21.12.12

Planning on going on a family trip to the pictures this Christmas? Salman Rushdie’s epic novel Midnight’s Children has been made into a movie, and is the must-see winter flick of the year. Directed by one of the most respected international filmmakers in the world, Deepa Mehta, it is a production with heart, soul and history. Made for viewing with friends and family, it makes the ideal break from being stuck at home watching repeat serials on television.
Released in cinemas nationwide on Boxing Day, it spans the story of how India grew into a country, by focusing on the lives of two children who were born at the stroke of midnight on the day India gained independence. Original, captivating, educational and bizarre, you’ll never see another film like it.

Lead actor and newcomer Satya Bhabha who plays Salim, a boy who who was born into a poor family but whose destiny is changed after he is switched at birth, reveal why the tale of Midnight’s Children is so significant to him

I first read the book when I was 10
It was actually thrust in my hands before that but I was scared of the length! It had always been an important book for my father (post-colonial academic Homi Bhabha) and I recognised many of the stories he used to tell me, told on the pages in another way.
I then revisited the book 10 years ago when I was grown up so I had a child’s perspective on it, and then as an adult really appreciated Salman’s way with words. Then I devoured it again two days before meeting Salman about the role as I knew I had to have every part of the story at my fingertips; I really enjoyed revisiting parts I had forgotten.  

Making the film, helped me uncover my own history
There are political and historical elements to the story but ultimately it’s a magical story full of crazy happenings and quirky characters who bounce in and out of it. My character Salim is referred to as a child of history and when I started researching I discovered a lot about my own past as well as Indian history. My dad is Parsi, who are known as the Jews of the East, as they were always being shovelled from one country to another, while my mother is Jewish Italian. She originally lived in India and moved to Italy as a child. While researching the role I visited the Breach Candy Swimming Club which features heavily in the story and was just across the road from where Salman lived and there I discovered a plaque on the wall with my mother’s name on. She had won a swimming championship, it was incredibly exciting, I texted her a photo immediately! It was amazing to find such connections with a place.

It’s given me a deeper understanding of my identity
This is not just a film about India, but is one about home and family. It crosses all generations and cultures, not just Indians. Anyone who has lived a multicultural life, will be able to relate to it. If you’ve ever moved to a city and had to find yourself you’ll connect with it. I grew up in London, moved to Chicago, then worked in London and now I live in Los Angeles though London will always feel the most like my home.

It’s been a role I could properly devour
Acting is an industry about boxes, people are one type of person or another, but casting directors don’t know how to place me. It’s incredibly exciting but also hard. It’s not just acting that interests me. I have just directed my first short film and I play cello in a band called He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister. Looking ahead, I made this film over a year ago, so it’s strange it’s now finally out, since then I’ve done TV roles, and the band has toured but I’m open to writing more too and perhaps creating my own role to act in. 

Read our exclusive interview with the director of Midnight’s Children, Deepa Mehta here.

Interview by Momtaz Begum-Hossain


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