There are a couple of books that have been needlessly cluttering up my bedside table for the last week or so. Books that have actually been finished for a while.
One of those is Q&A by Vikas Swarup. It’s the original novel that was adapted into the screenplay for the film Slumdog Millionaire which I mentioned back in February. While the form and basic storyline is familiar from the film, there are quite big differences. To avoid copyright/licensing issues, the TV show forming the spine of the book is called Q&A, but feels pretty familiar to anyone who’s watched Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.
Some of the names, relationships and circumstances are different too, and it would be easy to turn this into a what’s-different-between-the-film-and-the-book post, pointing out that the Jamal character played by Dev Patel is instead Ram Mohammad Thomas etc ... and to some extent I’m finding it unavoidable!
The book is quite slowly paced, taking time to examine the twelve vignettes of Ram’s life experience that allowed him to correctly answer the questions. Some were obviously very strong ideas and visually distinctive enough to make it all the way into the film. Others were not taken forward. In a way the original book and the film make different points.
The film becomes a fairy tale about betrayal and redemption, with the final act chasing through Mumbai to get to the train station to find a girl. Whereas the book is less rushed and less complicated. There’s unrequited love in there too, but it’s less Hollywood/Bollywood and more unexpected. If anything, after the adventure ride to get there, the book ended too quietly, too simply, kind of folding its arms and giving out a little satisfied sigh. But the plots within the chapter were fascinating, and it was still a good read.
It will be interesting to see what Vikas Swarup does with his next novel.