Desi-Box spoke to the lead of the forthcoming Deepa Mehta directed film Midnight’s Children; Satya Bhabha.
Satya plays the lead in the Booker Prize award winning Midnight’s Children, which Rushdie has adapted for the screen and narrated. The film tells the tale of two children born within moments of India gaining independence from Britain. Growing up, their lives are mysteriously intertwined, and mirror India’s journey as a nation through its triumphs and tragedies.
The ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’ star talks more about the film and working with his co-stars as well as speaking about his journey of lifetime and revealing more about himself as an actor and director.
Check out what he had to say below.
DB: How did it feel when you were told you got the lead part in the Deepa Mehta adaption of Midnight’s Children?
SB: I was ecstatic but also a little bit nervous. It was not only a great honour and joy to be able to work with Deepa but also to be in the first ever Salman Rushdie film ever made, and for that to be Midnight’s Children; one of my favourite books of all time, was a complete dream come true if I had even dared to dream such a thing. It was a real surprise and joy and has been a fantastic journey.
DB: When you got the part were you ever hesitant about taking on the role due to the controversies that have surrounded the book and Salman?
SB: Not at all! There was never hesitation in my mind whether I should take this role. It’s a beautiful script. There is no malice in this film or in the book. If people want twist intentions they may, but from reading book and meeting Deepa and Salman it was pretty clear that the film was being made with upmost generosity and love.
DB: How did you prepare for the role?
SB: For me the preparation for the role started in 2010 and the process was a long one. I’m quite far away in certain ways from my character Saleem and in other ways I’m quite close. But in a contextual way I’ve never lived for any extended time in India and was only familiar with the basics of Indian history. So I initially spent long period on contextual research studying and reading book from Nehru’s ‘The Discovery of India’ to Ramachandra Guha ‘India after Gandhi’ and everything in-between. Then the process was also one of technical things. Things like studying and learning Hindi. I also travelled in Mumbai spending two months visiting every corner of the city and fleshing out Saleem’s history from the page to the streets. I then travelled through Rajasthan for a few weeks experimenting in sort of myself as an Indian if you will. It was a long but rewarding experience ultimately.
DB: Sounds like a journey of a lifetime. What did you learn about yourself?
SB: It really was a journey of a lifetime. It’s an interesting thing as I wasn’t looking for myself but for my character. By the end of it when I turned up on set there was no real distinction between me and Saleem. My father is Indian and mother is Italian. I grew up in London and never spent much time India outside family holidays. By the end of the shoot it was actually quite shocking coming back to ‘normal life’. It took me a while to come back into myself I came to London first which was important me as it’s really my home and where I’m from. And spent some time here relaxing and come back to myself before going back to the states where I live.
DB: What was it like working with renowned Bollywood actors?
SB: It was a complete honour total gift to work with these fantastic actors. As Saleem was in so much of the film I was able to meet almost all the actors. It was a wonderful experience. Shabana Azmi is fantastic. Although we didn’t have that much screen time there was a little scene we shot together. Rahul Bose and I don’t actually interact on screen at all but we did interact a lot off screen and he’s a great guy. Of course the characters Seema Biswas and I play in a certain way were central relations hip of the film and working with her was completely amazing; not only is she incredible actress but an extraordinary person
DB: How did you find work with Deepa as a director?
SB: Deepa is a wonderful,generous,ferocious mistress. She has an incredible acuity for human emotion and truth and really seeks out the emotional honesty in every actor’s performance. It was a very challenging shoot for all of us but ultimately we built strong and tight knit community and lovely to reconnect with these people down the line outside that environment with the film competed and doing so well around the world.
DB: Is Bollywood next for you?
SB: I have just finished directing my first film project in LA. I’m doing other acting work in the states but would love to work in India depending on what role came up. I think director Dibakar Banerjee is fantastic and a lot of work he does is extremely exciting.
DB: Do you prefer acting or directing?
SB: I first started as an actor in theatre, then subsequently directed quite a lot of theatre. I have always felt my experience as an actor hasreally informed and facilitated my ability to direct and vice versa. I would hope to be lucky enough to do both forever it’s an incredible joy to participate in both.
DB: Would you ever consider performing in theatre in the London west end?
SB: I would love to act in the West End. I would like to start working here more. I was born here and worked here to a certain degree with different theatre companies and the National Youth Theatre. For the last few years I have been based in the states but have been recently thinking how I would love to come back to England and something I would be really exited about. I feel like that there is a focus and understanding of intellectualism to a lot of work that happens in England that really connects with me.
DB: Do you have any advice for budding filmmakers and actors?
SB: You have to be emphatical and you cannot give up. If you truly believe this is what you want to be doing in your head and heart then need follow it. It will find you as you find it. It’s not a straight shot career where you go from this job to this job and from promotion to promotion but in that uncertainty there is a room for a lot of magic.
DB: Why should everyone see Midnight’s Children?
SB: The film is about family and finding your identity. It’s not a film about Indians, exclusively for Indians. It’s really for the current multicultural society that everyone lives. I think that is something that everyone can relate to. Essentially it’s a film about a boy who loses his family and is forced to create new one. Especially in the cultures and environments we all live in today, very few people live where they were born, and very few people have multiple generations of family living in the same place or close to each other. Everybody is moving around constantly and shifting the whole time. So I think a film like this that really supports the idea that you can really create your own sense of family and your own sense of identity wherever you are a based upon people and places around you, is something important and will be great message to have out there.
‘Midnight’s Children’ releases in cinemas nationwide on 26th Decemeber 2012.