Setting aside criticism from sections which accused the Golden Globe-winning Slumdog Millionaire of being “too negative” a story about India,diplomat Vikas Swarup,on whose novel “Q and A” the film was based,said all stories about the country should be told to the world.
Speaking at the fourth edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival,Swarup,highlighted the inspirations behind his book and stressed that critics who claimed it is too dark a representation and portrays India in a poor light should be ignored.
“India is so large and multifarious,a single book cannot represent the whole reality.It (Q and A) is at best a slice of Indian life,not the only and authentic version of it,” said Swarup,whose book was made into a screenplay by Simon Beufoy.
“That said,there should be stories about all kinds of India,” he added.
He confessed that the American publishers were a bit worried about “the dark bits”,but “I insisted that they remain as I wanted the protagonist to be the ultimate underdog”.
Comparing Danny Boyle’s screen adaptation of his book to the original work,he said,”While ‘Q and ‘A is iconic,’Slumdog Millionaire’ is evocative.”
“While I wrote the book in 2003,and it was released in 2005,filmmakers actually approached us in 2004 as the publishers had already circulated the draft”.
Slumdog Millionaire won four Golden Globe awards and received a whopping 11 nominations for the BAFTA.
Swarup also spoke about his apprehensions that the original theme of the book will be distorted while being converted to a screenplay.
“When I met Simon Beaufoy at the London launch of the book,he promised to stick to the soul of the book,which made me sure that the body would be mangled,” the author joked.
The first draft of the screenplay was drastically different from the book itself,but the screenwriter incorporated some of his suggestions later,Swarup said.
“However,the author is obsolete once the filmmakers come into fray,” he said,adding,”So when I watched the film,I was not shocked despite the fact that the filmmakers had taken a lot of liberty,including changing the name of the hero from Ram Mohammad Thomas to Jamal Malik,and thereby also changing his representation.”
The author,however,added that he did not write with a predisposition or intention of “highlighting the underbelly of the country”. The intention was only to write a thorough entertainer and wanted the protagonist to be a complete underdog,he said.
“When I penned down the book,I was not even thinking of which genre it will fall into,my aim was to write an entertainer,but I had not expected the kind of success it went on to receive”.
The author,who wrote the book at a frantic pace to cope up with a deadline to wrap it up within two months,said what was published finally was his first draft as he did not even have the time and luxury to re-write it.
“Q & A is my first draft. I didn’t even have the time to re-write it. It was,however,edited very well,he said,adding,”The book came to my mind as a package,including a few questions.”
Inspired by thrillers,the diplomat wanted to his first book to have a “page-turning” propensity which has always prompted him to read books.
“I was always a lover of thrillers and admire a page-turning consistency in thrillers I felt I can at least endure my novel with the same consistency which I myself love about a novel,therefore the framework that people want to know what will be the next question and what will be the next answer,” he said.
With a number of officers in the foreign service taking up writing,Swarup said it was part of his motivation for penning down the book,which tracks the life of a dweller of Asia’s largest slum — Dharavi — and how he goes on to win the Indian version of ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’.
“My motivation came from my contemporaries in foreign service who have taken to fiction and also from my residing in London which is a hub of literary activity.
The inspiration of the plot,however came from a news piece about a major in the British army being accused of cheating in the British version of the game show,revealed the author,whose second book the ‘Six Suspects’ is also being made into a film.
The book that has so far been translated in 36 languages,with the Dutch and the Danish versions coming out before the original version in English.