Friday, April 15

Slumdog Millionaire by Vikas Swarup

Slumdog Millionaire formerly published as Q&A by Vikas Swarup

The movie Slumdog Millionaire, directed by Danny Boyle, went on to win 8 Oscars, including best picture.  It also won Best Adapted Screenplay, from the novel Slumdog Millionaire by Vikas Swarup, which had previously been published as Q&A.

Slumdog Millionaire tells the story of Ram Muhammad Thomas, who won a billion rupees on one of India’s biggest game shows and was subsequently arrested on charges of cheating.  The game show doesn’t want to pay Ram the full amount, and since he is an uneducated man, they figure the only way he could’ve won is by cheating.  With the help of Smita Shah, a lawyer who takes on Ram’s case, Ram hopes to show how his life experiences helped provide him with the answers to the question and that he did not cheat.

For those of you who have watched the movie, you have already noticed one very large difference between what I just wrote above and what you saw in the movie: the main character’s name.  I have no idea why they changed the lead’s name.  It’s been a couple years since I watched the movie, so this review of the book isn’t meant to examine the transition from book to screen.

Each chapter covers a different question on the game show, and how Ram knew the answer.  We watch as he enjoys his childhood with his best friend Salim, being adopted by a Priest, falling in love, being forced away from the one he loves, and through many other tales.  Though these, we not only discover how Ram knows the answer to the questions on the game show, but we also learn about him, as his character deepens with each question.

Some of these chapters are excellent.  Each contains its own smaller narrative, largely kept within the confines of the chapter.  Some of the narratives trickle into other stories, especially those involving Salim or death of some kind.  However, there are a couple chapters which are weaker.  These are often the chapters where, merely from reading the events, I can immediately see what Ram learns that will be applicable to the game show.  Also, some of the plot lines never seem to be brought to adequate conclusion.  When I finished the book, my first thought was wondering what happened to one of what (I thought) was a major plot line.

Still, the strong lead character and the interesting situation carried it through.  Though I’m guessing it wasn’t originally published in English, the descriptions made the location seem real.  I felt that I truly got the feel of what India was like for an orphaned child.

Now I just need to find time to re-watch the movie.  I’m interested in seeing what changes were made.  From my brief recollection, it seems like there were some significant differences, but I’ll have to re-watch the movie to know for sure.

3.5/5 Stars

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