Salman Rushdie: Why the censorship?
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The Satanic Verses. Of Salman Rushdie’s 1988 novel, the name alone is an emblem of literary controversy - and the name of the author himself is, apparently, no less fraught. That’s certainly the way it seems, given that new film Midnight’s Children - based on his 1980 novel of the same name - will most likely not be seen in India due to the unwillingness of distributors to back it. Since Rushdie described the novel as his ‘love letter to India’, can it really be that the author’s name alone is enough to stifle such a uniquely Indian tale on its home soil? For those who know the story of Midnight’s Children, it is a somewhat ironic turn of events. The title refers to children born at the exact time that India achieves independence from Britain - children who, in the story, develop magical powers often rooted in Hindu mythology. The novel follows the story of such a child, and also the story of the young country around him, and celebrates countless aspects of Indian culture. The film version is directed by Deepa Mehta, whose films have in the past met with censorship in India- much like The Satanic Verses. Overall, however, it would be difficult to imagine a more deeply Indian film project. The jury is still out on why, exactly, distributors would refuse to back such a film. One reason that various sources have suggested for the lack of response is the story’s admittedly scathing portrayal of Indira Gandhi, then prime minister of India, whose daughter-in-law is in power now.
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