Related News

Home » Feature » Events and TV

Swarup swaps for Oscar red carpet

IT has been an incredible few months for Indian diplomat and author Vikas Swarup who is now rubbing shoulders with Hollywood's A-listers at the Academy Awards. In an exclusive e-mail interview to the Shanghai Daily, Swarup discusses with Sam Riley about the film, and what it's like to step into the glare of the Hollywood spotlight before the curtains rise on Oscars.

Vikas Swarup, whose novel "Q&A" was the inspiration for the blockbuster "Slumdog Millionaire," is also the Indian deputy high commissioner in South Africa.

His novel - which he wrote on the weekends over a period of about two months when he was working as a diplomat in London in 2003 - has been rediscovered by readers in the wake of the success of "Slumdog Millioniare."

Swarup's debut novel was a bestseller, receiving both critical and popular acclaims and has been translated into 40 languages.

However, on the back of the success, the book tie-in has outsold its earlier editions.

Q: What do you think of the film and its representation of your book "Q&A?"

A: On the whole, I am satisfied with the film. It is visually dazzling and emotionally satisfying. It does differ from my novel in some significant ways, but manages to preserve the soul of my novel.

My book is about survival and hope and the triumph of the underdog and the same things can be said about the film. More importantly, the film borrows the entire narrative structure from the book. Many of the characters in the film are also from the book.

But I was sorry to see that Ram Mohammad Thomas had become Jamal Malik.

Q: You have been reported as saying that it has shined a spotlight on you as an author. Can you tell us what this experience has been like and how it has changed your life?

A: For me, personally, it is incredibly gratifying to see that a story I wrote in just two months in 2003 is now resonating from the podiums of Hollywood and that people all across the world are relating to the film and reading the book again.

It is now being translated into 40 languages. My life has become much more hectic because of the demands from my various publishers and media organizations all over the world.

Q: Despite some already describing you as a "former diplomat," you have juggled the "day job." How do you balance the two and how does life in the world of diplomacy help or inspire your writing?

A: The balance is certainly difficult.

Writing fiction is not easy when you have a full-time day job and also have to fulfil the duties of a husband and a father.

But for me, at least, the fact that I have an excellent day job also acts as a stimulus for the creative process. It frees me from pressure. So I have no intention of becoming a full-time writer.

Q: The film has received a mixed response in India with some quarters criticizing the film's portrayal of India's dire poverty. What do you think of these arguments that see the film as "poverty pornography" or "slum voyeurism" for Western audiences?

A: While we should respect all shades of opinion about the film, we should also recognize that the film is not a documentary on slum life. It is a compelling human story about the resilience, dynamism, entrepreneurship and never-say-die spirit of India.

The way Danny Boyle has captured the throbbing, pulsating life in Mumbai has never been done before. He does bring an outsider's perspective to Mumbai, but one full of respect and empathy for the city and its residents.

Q: Some have said that India is now comfortable enough on the global stage to be portrayed "warts and all." What do you think this debate over the film based on your book says about the state of Indian culture and Indians' view of themselves in the world?

A: I agree with your first statement, and this is clear from the way so many in India have embraced "Slumdog Millionaire" as an "Indian" film and are revelling in its success.

Vir Sanghvi put it very eloquently in the Hindustan Times: "We know that there's more to Mumbai than the filth of the slums. But we don't deny that the dirt and poverty exist. And we are quite content to let it be shown ... Our reaction to 'Slumdog Millionaire' demonstrates India's new maturity and confidence."

Q: Are you going to attend the Oscars or have you attended other awards or premieres?

A: I attended the Mumbai premiere of the film. I was invited to the Baftas but could not go. I have been invited by the Academy Awards and I am going to Los Angeles for the Oscar ceremony.

Q: What is it like to emerge from the diplomatic world into a global spotlight like this?

A: It is a bit like stepping from a dark room into bright sunlight. Civil servants are supposed to be behind the scenes so the media spotlight is a bit unsettling.

But I know this is a temporary phase. Once the excitement surrounding the film dies down, I will be able to go back to my comfortable anonymity.

Q: I take it that another of your books is in the conceptual stage for a film. Can you tell us more about that? Do you plan to get more actively involved in writing for film or helping to adapt your works into film? What was your involvement in this process on "Slumdog Millionaire?"

A: My second book "Six Suspects" has been optioned by the BBC and Starfield productions. Last I heard they were talking to a top screenplay writer for the cinematic adaptation.

I don't think I will get directly involved with the adaptation process, but it is always helpful when the producers consult the author on the screenplay. After all, nobody knows the characters better than the person who created them in the first place.

I had creative control in terms of the contract for "Slumdog Millionaire" and Simon Beaufoy consulted me on the screenplay and even took on board some of my suggestions.

Q: Finally, are you working on another book and can you tell us a little bit about it?

A: I am still conceptualizing my next book. All I can say at this moment is that it may not be set in India, for a change.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend