Thursday, 26 March 2009

Q & A - Vikas Swarup

I have just finished reading Q & A (2005) by Vikas Swarup, the novel on which the movie Slumdog Millionaire (2008) was based on. Having seen the movie a few weeks ago, I was keen to read the novel. (Yes, I know that's the wrong order to do it.)

Q & A is a very easy read, although quite formulaic at times (each chapter is is a mini 'story' which provides the context for each question on a game show). It is very well-researched and an interesting look at life in various parts of Mumbai and Agra in India. Slumdog Millionaire follows a similar format, but uses Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? as its gameshow, rather than the fictitious Who Wants to Win a Billion? (W3B) featured in the book. Basically, the central character has been arrested for winning a quiz show; he is an uneducated waiter from Mumbai, having grown up as an orphan in various slums, therefore could not possibly have won the show without having cheated. The context and characters are different in the movie, but the plot is similar.

I think this has to be one of the rare occasions where I feel the movie is actually better than the book. I felt the same about Forrest Gump (1994); the novel skipped through events in such a manner, and at such a great pace, that there was little time left to develop an emotional connection with the characters. Q & A moves at a quick pace, and each story is almost skimmed over; Slumdog Millionaire somehow manages to fill in all the 'gaps' and give a better sense of the central character (with some extra story lines and characters added in for good measure), the farce that the quiz show is, and is generally more believable.

The novel is very much Forrest Gump in style, ie Ram seems to bumble along from one situation to another with an almost glossy view of events. Therefore, I wasn't overly surprised to find a question in the discussion section at the back of the book asking: "Ram has also been described as a Forresst Gump figure. Do you agree?" I'd say yes and no; while the style of events is similar, as is their being in the right place at the right time to experience them, Ram and Forrest had completely different circumstances and outlooks on life. But I can see where the question came from.

A recommended read, especially if you enjoyed Slumdog Millionaire.

1 comment:

Donna said...

I wondered if it was any good. I'm not sure if I want to read it now...I think I'll do like you and see the movie first!