Cinema as Intertext in Midnight’s Children
Saleem in Midnight’s Children makes an accurate evaluation of India when he states, “Nobody from Bombay should be without a basic film vocabulary” (Rushdie 33). Bollywood, the capital of the film industry in India, is the largest manufacturer of motion pictures in the world. A large percentage of the films are either mythical romances or musicals and often they last longer than three hours in length. While watching Indian cinema would be a painful ordeal for Western audiences, Indians embrace the industry and are very proud of their cinema heritage. Indians would argue that it is the distinct differences in Bollywood filmmaking that sets India apart from the Western world. It is the desire to separate themselves from Western culture that makes the Bollywood film industry so successful and accounts for India’s obsession with film. However, while film is a major part of Indian society, cinema does have its origins in the Western world. Salman Rushdie uses intertextuality to portray how Indian society changes the Western influence of cinema to express Eastern culture and how cinema depicts the narrator Saleem as unreliable.
Intertextuality is the process of deriving meaning from the ways in which texts stand in relation to each other. This is the theory that all authors imitate styles, themes, and ideas from previous writers and, therefore, no text is entirely original. Thais Morgan asserts in his article “The Space of Intertextuality” that there are two different levels of intertextuality: “influence” and “inspiration”. Morgan says, “Text A influences text B when the critic can demonstrate that B has ‘borrowed’ structure(s), theme(s), and/or image(s) from A ...
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...ollywood films help strengthen motivations of characters and demonstrate the unreliable narration of Saleem. Lastly, the usage of cinematic language sets a tone of both romance and disbelief in the words of Saleem as he struggles with remembering a traumatic event from the past. In all three examples of cinema as intertext, Rushdie transgresses conventional uses of cinema and crafts new and unique ways for it to appear in the text. This establishes Midnight’s Children as an original contemporary work, relinquishing it from any claims of prior influence from previous texts.
Morgan, Thais. “The Space of Intertextuality.” Intertextuality and Contemporary American Fiction. Ed. Patrick O’Donnell and Robert Con Davis. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1989. 239-279.
Rushdie, Salman. Midnight’s Children. London: Picador, 1982.