Some people think that there is no such thing as a good film adaptation of a novel and are often disappointed by the interpretation of a favourite book when it is portrayed on the screen. If you’ve recently seen the Oscar winning Slumdog Millionaire you will soon have a chance to borrow the novel on which it was based from the Library. It was known as “Q&A” (since renamed Slumdog Millionaire following the success of the film) and is Indian diplomat, Vikas Swarup’s first novel. Inspired by the furore that was sparked by the case of the “coughing major”, Charles Ingram accused of cheating on the ITV programme “Who wants to be a millionaire?” Swarup wrote a book about a poor boy winning a large sum of money on popular quiz programme and set it in contemporary India.
The film adaptation is much more famous than the book so many people will probably read the novel after they’ve seen the movie. It is interesting to compare the two. The screenwriter Simon Beaufoy has made some changes which suit a cinema interpretation. The two friends in the novel become brothers in the film. The hero in ‘Q and A’ , has the unlikely name of Ram Mohammad Thomas given to him by his adoptive father so that he can claim Hindu, Muslim and Christian allegiances according to the situation he finds himself in. In Slumdog the hero becomes Jamal Malik who does not have the burden of being an Indian Everyman.
The basic structure of the story is the same in the two versions. Each chapter in the novel is a short story describing one incident in the hero’s life which coincidentally enables him to answer the question posed during the television quiz programme. The stories are different: Ram falls in love with a beautiful girl called Nita who appears late in the novel and does not have the appeal of Jamal’s childhood friend and almost lost love Latika. The writer and critic Chitralekha Basu in the Independent April 8th 2008 says that “‘Q and A” could easily double as beginner’s guide to the quintessential India’. Its stories range from young people being obsessed with the cinema, a communal riot on the streets of Mumbai during which a hitman saves a boy’s life and a comic account of life as a servant in an Australian military attaché’s house. Salman Rushdie has criticised both novel and film for being too fantastic while other critics have seen it as a rags to riches tale in the Bollywood tradition.