ISB Updates

Vikas Swarup, author of Q&A talks to ISB students

Vikas Swarup, a diplomat and author of “Q &A,” on which the movie, Slumdog Millionaire, was based was at ISB recently. He spoke to students about creative thinking and shared his personal experience and journey from being an avid reader to a published author. He recounted his school days when he wrote short articles. He lamented that he had no time to write once he embarked on his diplomatic career. However, he continued to read and advocates reading as a route to becoming a writer.

On Q&A:

Swarup completed Q & A in two months in London, while his family was away in India. Swarup recollected that the difficulty in writing the book arose in framing the plot. He had to follow the etiquette of the quiz show, where questions gradually get harder and cover a wide array of subjects. He also found it challenging to keep the questions central to the story. The readers should not feel that the story was contrived; instead they should feel that the protagonist could answer the questions because of his circumstances. A catalyst for the story was Major Charles Ingram, convicted for cheating his way to winning the British version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? "If a British army major can be accused of cheating, then an ignorant tiffin boy from the world's biggest slum can definitely be accused of cheating."

Students peppered Swarup with questions about his reaction to the movie that was based on his book. “Slumdog Millionaire is an incredible piece of cinema with some amazing performances, brilliant music and original cinematography. It does differ from my novel in some important ways (for example, my novel was about luck while the film is clearly about destiny), but it also keeps the soul of my novel. The entire narrative structure is borrowed from my book. My book was about survival and hope and the triumph of the underdog and the same things can be said about the film. 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. His unusual name, combining three religions, had an important message for our times,” Swarup answered.

He concluded on an encouraging and witty note to all aspiring writers, “I’m living proof that if I can write a book, anyone can!”