No slumdog this, only a ‘millionaire in rupees’

By Pranay Sharma, IANS,

New Delhi : Diplomat, bestselling novelist and now millionaire? Vikas Swarup, India’s deputy high commissioner to South Africa and author of the much acclaimed “Q & A”, may be on a roll, but he is still modest.

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“It is very gratifying,” said Swarup, whose debut novel has been turned into a highly acclaimed movie, “SlumDog Millionaire” by British filmmaker Danny Boyle and whose latest book “Six Suspects” may also turn up as a TV film.

“I haven’t seen the film as yet, but it has attracted rave reviews. People say Boyle has been able to capture the true spirit of India,” Swarup told IANS on telephone and e-mail from the Indian mission in Pretoria.

So like the protagonist of his first book, has he turned into a millionaire? “Only in rupee terms!” said Swarup.

Asked whether he had expected “Q & A” to inspire a movie, Swarup said, “I knew the book was very visual and I received several offers from Bollywood. But that a British film company wanted to film it in English was a surprise.”

Swarup is among a growing list of Indian diplomats who have turned to writing – both fiction and non-fiction – in the past decade or so and made a mark at the national and international levels.

But he will perhaps have the distinction of being the first Indian diplomat whose book has been turned into a film – and that too a Hollywood movie.

“SlumDog Millionaire” has already won the People’s Choice award at the recently concluded Toronto film festival. It will be premiered in India in November this year.

Since the first book had been a success and had got rave reviews from many literary forums, the pressure was much less while writing the second novel, “Six Suspects” .

“My second book, ‘Six Suspects’, was released recently. BBC is already in talks for taking an option on the film/TV rights. Since the second book is now already out so the pressure had certainly lessened,” Swarup said.

The novel “Q & A” was an Indian version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” and revolves around the story of a poor waiter from Mumbai’s slum, Dharavi, who wins the prize and has to explain how he knew all the answers to the tricky and difficult questions.

Many Indian actors are part of the cast of “SlumDog Millionaire”. While NRI Dev Patel plays the protagonist, Jamal, Anil Kapoor, Irrfan Khan and model-turned actor Frieda Pinto play the other major roles.