Vancouver’s Anita Majumdar stars in festival opening film ‘Midnight’s Children’

Published: September 26, 2012

GLEN SCHAEFER
THE PROVINCE

Anita Majumdar, an actress and playwright from Port Moody, stars in Midnight’s Children. Steve Bosch/PNG

Anita Majumdar is Facebook friends with Salman Rushdie, and the Port Moody-raised actor-playwright knows how bizarre that sounds.

“It’s so strange to tell friends, no, I actually can’t hang out at Starbucks, I’m going to have dinner with Salman Rushdie,” Majumdar says. “These things come out of your mouth and you think, whose life am I living? It’s surreal.”

A little over a decade ago Majumdar was a student at the University of B.C., reading Rushdie’s Booker prize-winning novel Midnight’s Children as a fan of the writing. She went from UBC to a three-year-program at Montreal’s National Theatre School, where she graduated in 2004.

Work on stage and screen took her to Toronto, where she now lives, and the Rushdie connection came when director Deepa Mehta cast Majumdar as Emerald, the haughty, glamorous wife of a military officer in her film adaptation of Midnight’s Children.

The movie opens the Vancouver International Film Festival Thursday, and gets a wide release Oct. 26.

It’s the latest turn in an acting life that had its spark when Majumdar’s banker parents took her to a 1994 Vancouver Playhouse production of David Mamet’s Oleanna.

“That was my first experience with the theatre, and the first time I saw what I really wanted to do,” she says. “I was 13 or 14, it was spectacular.”
Coming out of theatre school, she starred in the 2005 CBC TV movie Murder Unveiled, based on a true story about a Lower Mainland woman who was killed by her family in India. But her focus was on stage.

“I’m an actor who writes,” she says. “I write primarily for the purpose of getting onstage, getting to be an actor.”

Deepa Mehta. Submitted photo

Several years ago, director Mehta saw Majumdar in her one-woman play The Misfit, playing multiple characters in a dark culture-clash comedy. The two met at that time, and Majumdar must have made an impression.

In November 2010, Mehta telephoned Majumdar and asked her to play the role of Emerald, the aunt to main character Saleem in Midnight’s Children. Two and a half months filming was to start in Sri Lanka that January.

“I started working my butt off,” Majumdar says, adding she went back to the book. “As an actor working on a film adaptation, you read it with a different lens. I was following Emerald’s timeline in the book, along with the script that Salman also wrote.”

The 1980 novel’s magical realist story follows the fate of two babies born at midnight on the day of India’s 1947 independence, and their subsequent lives amid the turmoil of partition from Pakistan, civil war and 1970s political repression. For all that, the novel and movie have frequent comic moments, with a magical overlay that has hundreds of children born on that time and date – the midnight’s children of the title – endowed with mystical powers.

Filming happened in Sri Lanka, partly because modern India has fewer of the partition-era buildings and streetscapes needed for the movie. As well, Mehta’s previous movies have been touchstones of controversy in India – 2005’s Water had to film in Sri Lanka after production India was threatened by protests. Midnight’s Children filmed under the working title Winds of Change, and Mehta worked under a fake name.

“I never felt unsafe,” Majumdar says, adding only her immediate family and a few close friends knew she was working on the film. “No one really knew what we were doing.”

The only other Canadian in the cast was Zaib Shaikh of TV’s Little Mosque on the Prairie, who was on set for 10 days playing her fugitive brother-in-law in the film. The two have been friends since attending UBC together years earlier.

Author and screenwriter Salman Rushdie. Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Majumdar bonded with the two Indian actors who played her sisters in the movie, getting together off set for weekends on the beach and dinners out, which helped her model her accent on theirs.

She only met Rushdie after filming was finished, and the film’s debut earlier this year at the Toronto International Film Festival proved to be a bonding experience for writer, director and cast.

“We had dinner at Deepa’s house,” says Majumdar.

As well, they all rocked out together at a James Bond-themed party held during TIFF.

“We danced into the night with Salman on the dance floor,” she says. “At first you think, oh everything has to be very serious, he’s written the Booker of all Bookers. But spending the weekend with this incredible man, now understanding that he has this insane sense of humour, he’s charming and witty but he’s also a real person, so fun to be around. We quickly put down our best behaviours and we just started gossiping.”

Now that her Midnight’s Children experience is nearing an end, she’s back to work on two new plays she’s workshopping with Toronto’s Nightswimming theatre company.
You have to ask, does she ever hit up her new friend for writing tips.

“I didn’t, because our mediums are so different,” she says. “I think if I ever wrote a screenplay I might say how did you do that? I feel like I may have more questions for him as my own writing career progresses.”


Tags: , , , , , , , ,





Featured

raju main

Vancouver PR firm joins campaign to keep India’s ‘crying elephant’ away from abusive owner (w/ gallery)

LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI A Vancouver-based public relations firm has joined an international campaign to keep an Indian elephant safe from an owner who kept…
Continue Reading »

MINOR ATACKED

Surrey RCMP to announce development in investigation into sexual attack on 9-year-old

VANCOUVER DESI Surrey RCMP plan to release “significant” details Tuesday afternoon on the sexual assault of a nine-year-old girl six days ago. A press release…
Continue Reading »

kabaddi

Vancouver Lions win first match in World Kabaddi League, beat Sonakshi Sinha’s United Singhs

VANCOUVER DESI Man of the match : Gagandeep Singh Sabrawa (Vancouver Lions) Best Raider: Gagandeep Singh Sabrawa, Vancouver Lions (18 raids) Best Stopper: Sandeep Singh…
Continue Reading »

LOCAL NEWS

raju main

Vancouver PR firm joins campaign to keep India’s ‘crying elephant’ away from abusive owner (w/ gallery)

LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI A Vancouver-based public relations firm has joined an international campaign to keep an Indian elephant safe from an owner who kept…
Continue Reading »

MINOR ATACKED

Surrey RCMP to announce development in investigation into sexual attack on 9-year-old

VANCOUVER DESI Surrey RCMP plan to release “significant” details Tuesday afternoon on the sexual assault of a nine-year-old girl six days ago. A press release…
Continue Reading »

education

Gallery: Ten schools you need to see to believe

ASHLEY CSANADY CANADA.COM It’s back to school for kids across Canada on Tuesday — well, except in B.C., but they can still drool over these…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...

education

Gallery: Ten schools you need to see to believe

ASHLEY CSANADY CANADA.COM It’s back to school for kids across Canada on Tuesday — well, except in B.C., but they can still drool over these…
Continue Reading »

carleton-university-phd-student-selvan-mohan-is-trying-to-ra

International student in Ottawa launches campaign to raise money for new prosthetic leg

MEGHAN HURLEY OTTAWA CITIZEN A Carleton University PhD student from Malaysia has launched a fundraising campaign to replace his worn-out prosthetic leg. Selvan Mohan, 24, was born without a…
Continue Reading »

jail sex

B.C. Supreme Court to decide if Kamloops Mountie watching women have sex in jail is a crime

THE CANADIAN PRESS KAMLOOPS, B.C. — A judge wants to hear arguments from lawyers about the legality of the charge against an RCMP corporal accused…
Continue Reading »

Rice Bucket India poverty

India’s Rice Bucket Challenge gives a ‘meaningful twist’ to ALS ice bucket challenge

VANCOUVER DESI India has created its own “desi” version of the ALS ice bucket challenge that has swept the globe. While the original icy cold…
Continue Reading »

India

Man proudly wears world’s largest turban weighing in at 100 pounds and 645 metres long unwrapped

VANCOUVER DESI A 60-year-old devout Sikh in northern India appears to be the proud owner of the world’s largest turban – weighing in at 100…
Continue Reading »


Bollywood Latest

Bollywood sex

Gallery: Shreya Ghoshal, Shiamak’s dance team rocked Bollywood fans in Vancouver

VANCOUVER DESI Shreya Ghoshal, the singing sensation of Bollywood and Shiamak Davar’s dance team thrilled their fans with popular numbers and the latkas and matkas…
Continue Reading »

Desi boobs Sonakshi SInha

Gallery: Top 10 Bollywood celebrities who own sports teams

VANCOUVER DESI India’s love for cricket and Bollywood is world famous. When you try and bring the two together, you find the Indian Premier League…
Continue Reading »

Ranbir Kapoor-sports

Ranbir Kapoor: Bollywood’s link with sports is great

IANS Mumbai – Actor Ranbir Kapoor, who has stakes in the Mumbai City Football Club (FC) franchise of the Indian Super League (ISL) football tournament,…
Continue Reading »