This is the book on which the movie Slumdog Millionaire was made and is one of the few books that I am reading after watching (and enjoying) the movie. I usually tend to have read the book before watching the movie.
In a nutshell, the story is about a poor boy from the slums of Mumbai and Delhi who somehow manages to get on the popular TV show “Who Wants to be a Billionaire?” and manages to win 1 billion dollars. How does a poor, uneducated boy know the answers to all the questions? Has he cheated, or did he learn from the university of life? Well, that’s the rest of the plot…where he tells his life story showing how he knew the answers to the questions he was asked.
I was quite surprised to find that the movie deviates quite significantly from the book. The book has far more anecdotes, and details. I welcome the extra detail but somehow the prose does not do justice to the story. Vikas Swarup’s writing is a bit flat, very straightforward, and I was having difficulties getting into the book. The main strengths of the movie were the energy of the kids, the cinematography, the music, and the concept of fate. None of these strengths are derived from the book.
The book meanders on with various anecdotes from Ram Mohammed Thomas’s life (yes, in the book this is his name, and the story of how he comes by a multi-religious name is as cliched as it comes). The book starts to come to life when Ram goes to Agra and falls in love, and decides to come on to the show…a little over midway through the book.
The story picks up the pace quite nicely and Vikas Swarup even manages to throw in a few twists and turns into the very predictable plot making the ending quite a nice surprise.
All in all, it’s not too bad a book. But I was somehow expecting it to touch my emotions a little bit more. I think this is one of those rare cases where the movie was more affecting than the book.
Have any of you read the book and seen the movie? How did you feel the two compared?
Note: I am including this read as one of the books towards completing the South Asian Authors Challenge hosted by S Krishna.