‘I’m the luckiest novelist in the world’

From The Guardian:

Vikas-Swarup-author-of-th-006 When they made a film of Vikas Swarup's bestseller, they gave it an extreme makeover. But can I get the author to say anything critical about Danny Boyle's hit adaptation of his debut novel, about a penniless orphan who wins India's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Not a chance. Swarup, you see, is a diplomat. And not just any diplomat: his sumptuous business card, embossed with three golden lions, tells me he is minister and deputy high commissioner of India, based in Pretoria.

They changed the title from Q&A to Slumdog Millionaire. (“That made a lot of sense,” says Swarup.) They changed the ending. (“Danny thought the hero should be arrested on suspicion of cheating on the penultimate question, not after he wins as I had it. That was a successful idea.”) They made friends into brothers, axed Bollywood stars and Mumbai hoodlums and left thrilling subplots on the cutting-room floor. Crucially, they changed the lead character's name from Ram Mohammad Thomas to Jamal Malik, thereby losing Swarup's notion that his hero would be an Indian everyman, one who sounded as though he was Hindu, Muslim and Christian. Instead, they made Jamal a Muslim whose mother is killed by a Hindu mob. (“It's more dramatically focused as a result, perhaps more politically correct.”) “I was forewarned of the changes by Simon Beaufoy, the screenwriter,” Swarup says. And he's still happy. “The film is beautiful. The plot is riveting. The child actors are breathtaking.”

Swarup has one niggle. He worries how that scene of Hindu mobs murdering Muslims will play when the film opens in India next week. “People in India are sensitive about how they're portrayed, so there will be criticisms. But a Bollywood director recently told me Slumdog Millionaire's failing was that it wasn't extreme enough to be truly Indian. India has a genius for recycling its contradictions.” Swarup rewards my sceptical frown with an endearing smile.

More here.