In the 24 hours since he flew in from Pretoria, Vikas Swarup has been through 27 interviews and more bookstore signings than he can remember.
And he still looks fresh and has a spring in his stride as he comes in for our meeting. Swarup, who is currently posted in Pretoria as India’s Deputy High Commissioner to South Africa, is also the author of Q&A, on which British director Danny Boyle based his Golden Globe-winning Slumdog Millionaire.
“Naturally I’m happy. I began writing the book while I was posted here (as Political Counsellor) and finished it in two months. I never imagined its film adaptation would be such a world winner,” Swarup says. “It’s nice to see a small budget film (£10m) winning so many Golden Globes and challenging all those multi-million dollar Hollywood blockbusters.”
Slumdog, once snubbed by mainstream Hollywood distributors, and apparently destined for a straight-to-DVD release in the US, is now a Best Picture favourite in this year’s Oscar race.
About the central character of a tea boy from the slums making it to India’s favourite television hot seat, he says, “The massive audience ratings of Kaun Banega Cororepati made me wonder.
In a country with so much poverty, the promise of Rs 1 crore was mind-boggling, it gave millions of people the hope to go out and claim it. Jamal (the protagonist) is one such product of the slums”.
He’s not fazed by criticism about the film’s portrayal of poverty in India. “It shows both the country’s underbelly and its success. And it brings out the slum dwellers’ spirit of survival and hope. It shows a flower can bloom in the darkness of the slum.”