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By VIKAS SWARUP ON ONE YEAR OF SLUMDOG MANIA Pratim D. Gupta Have you read q&a? Tell
  • Published 10.12.09
Vikas Swarup

Vikas Swarup has been on the move ever since his first book was translated on screen to a certain Slumdog Millionaire. At the Cairo International Film Festival, the man from Osaka (he is India’s consul general there in Japan) was part of the jury. t2 did a Q&A with the man who wrote Q&A…

It all started at the Telluride Film Festival in faraway Colorado and we are here in Egypt more than a year later. How would you describe these 12 months of Slumdog celebration?

Telluride was in September-October. I think it’s unbelievable. I still have to pinch myself sometimes to realise that this indeed is happening. What I am constantly amazed by is the number of lives this one book and film have touched now. There are some people who are on their way to superstardom on the basis of this one film. And the fact that readers across the world have reacted to an Indian story in such an enthusiastic way is what amazed me.

Honestly, when I wrote this book, I didn’t expect it to be translated into even one language. I always felt it was a book by an Indian for Indians. Now, it’s been translated into 42 languages. That is what is incredible to me. From the general to the specific that is how the world operates… maybe they were able to see a mirror image of the Ram Mohammed Thomas of their own country in the book.

When you come to a place like Cairo, do you feel that Slumdog Millionaire has changed the outside world’s perspective towards Indian cinema?

The Jai Ho moment from Slumdog Millionaire

I think that’s what Slumdog has done. It has placed India in the consciousness of the world. On the entertainment side. Bollywood was previously seen as something that would cater to only Indians outside India. They were breaking into the Top 10 in the UK and the US, but only the Indians were buying the tickets. What Slumdog has done is it has brought the world’s attention to the Indian film industry. Now that Rahman is doing a Hollywood project. Freida Pinto and Dev Patel are doing Hollywood projects. Even the children, I believe, are doing a film with Anthony Hopkins. Now Hollywood has taken notice of the talent that existed in the Indian film industry. That has been a big change. Slumdog has definitely brought Bollywood and Hollywood closer to each other. It is our first crossover hit.

How has life changed for you personally?

Well, I am sitting here chatting with you at the Cairo International Film Festival and not the Cairo Book Fair. (Laughs out loud). I mean, I get invitations now from beauty pageants and technology forums and what! Of course, book festivals are there. Of them, 95 per cent invitations I have to turn down because my day job doesn’t permit me that luxury. I have never been to Egypt and more importantly there was not much happening in Osaka. So I wanted to come and meet other people. After all, I am the only pure writer here. Others are all filmmakers or actors or technicians or screenplay writers. It’s good to meet other storytellers because a book is about telling a story and so is a film. When I came here I thought I will be a complete outsider but I am surprised with the kind of attention I have got.

You are part of the digital film jury. Do you think digital filmmaking is the future?

See digital has definitely democratised cinema. You no longer need the one million dollar camera or the negative cost to shoot a film. The problem with digital is the quality control. Just like anybody can be a writer, now anybody can be a filmmaker. But it is interesting to see the range of films that are made on digital. A big churning is happening because of the digital revolution.

Is there any pressure on you to write a book which is cinematic, like it is with the Stephen Kings and John Grishams?

If that was the case, my second book wouldn’t have been a murder mystery because a murder mystery is hard to film. I am pleasantly surprised that BBC is making a film on Six Suspects. When I was writing Q&A, I never had a film in mind. In fact, I didn’t have a book in mind… what’s the guarantee that your first book will be published? I believe you should be true to what you are writing. If you have half an eye on a screenplay, then there will be deviations which will make it into a bad book. And (then) you may not have a film at all. But what people say is that my books are very visual. Maybe because I first imagine the scene in my head and then I write it. Both my books are not out of my lived experience… they are part of my imagination. And because they are part of my imagination, the image first has to form in my mind, since it’s a fictional image.

What’s happening to Six Suspects? Is Danny Boyle directing it?

The scriptwriter John Hodge has done his first treatment and I am very happy with it. John has written the scripts for Trainspotting and The Beach, films made by Danny and Danny told me that you can’t get a better writer than him. But I don’t think Danny will direct it. BBC will definitely offer it to Danny but he is already doing another film (on mountain climber Aron Ralston) and he may not want to do another Indian film so soon after Slumdog Millionaire.

And what are you writing now?

Well, I have started a third book but it has been sidetracked with so many things happening.... I am excited about it and for the first time, my story is set outside India. Not because I do not love India but the theme I have chosen could not have worked in a country like India.

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