In its original version, Vikas Swarup's novel Q & A, did not create a stir in America. The reviews for the book, which this week jumped into the top 15 paperback bestsellers list in The New York Times, were not glowing, except for a handful of publications including The Washington Post.
The book was published in 2005 and its screen rights were sold several weeks before its publications and Simon Beaufoy, who would win an Oscar for adapting it, was brought aboard months before the Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle was signed.
In America, the book had to be content with blurbs culled mostly from the British newspapers. 'It was an inspired idea by Vikas Swarup to write Q & A..., declared The Sunday Telegraph, London.
'A broad and sympathetic humanity underpins the whole book.' The Observer described the novel about a slum kid making a huge impact in a quiz show and being suspected of cheating as 'a brilliant story, as colossal, vibrant and chaotic as India itself.'
But the praise left American and Canadian readers a bit cold.
Even with the American publisher Scribner issued the paperback edition of book with the announcement on its jacket, the inspiration for the upcoming major motion picture Slumdog Millionaire, there was hardly any excitement. Who knew of the film a year ago?
But as the film was getting plenty of Oscar buzz, Scribner issued in November a new version of the book, calling it Slumdog Millionaire (but acknowledging that it was originally published as Q & A) and with a 'still' from the film slapped on the front cover. It also carried a few lines from The Washington Post review calling it 'a very rich tale.' The newspaper added: 'A fast-paced read which will leave you strongly satified.'
Just as the Oscar ceremony was approaching in mid February, the novel which has been translated into over a dozen languages including Icelandic, started acquiring wide prominence. As the film crossed $200 million barrier worldwide this week following a terrific bump after its eight Oscar win, booksellers worldwide, especially in the UK, Australia and New Zealand are reporting big demand for the novel.
There are many plot twists from the novel which are not found in the movie. And the love angle which is one of the biggest selling point for the film is not found in the novel. But readers in big numbers are buying it.
The attack on the book and the film by Salman Rushdie hasn't harmed it anyway, it seems. Rushdie, who first saw the film at the Telluride, Colorado film festival where it premiered in September and has been murmuring against it. But only recently did he come out damning it.
The Observer, a British newspaper, which ran a long story on the book and film version recently, wrote: 'There's one final twist: Swarup has just received the supreme accolade of an attack from Salman Rushdie. The author of Midnight's Children has scolded both book and film for piling "impossibility upon impossibility." Rushdie has said that "the problem with this adaptation begins with the work being adapted".'
Rushdie, who is adapting Midnight's Children, for filmmaker Deepa Mehta, apparently has not dampened Swarup's spirits.
The author who was invited to the Oscars said that he is amazed that the film which was 'destined for hell' has become a world phenomenon. He was referring to Warner Independents planning to send it straight to DVD before Fox Searchlight bought it
Earlier, there were suggestions in the media that Swarup had distanced himself from the movie version because of the significant changes in the script including two friends and becoming brothers and his hero Ram Mohammad Thomas turned into Jamal Malik.
But as the film continued to win plaudits, box-office success and Beaufoy and Boyle continuously acknowledged the inspiration from Swarup's novel, the writer began embracing it.
Text: Arthur J Pais