Attention for ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, ‘Q & A’ is mind-boggling: Vikas Swarup (Interview)January 27th, 2009 - 12:23 pm ICT by IANS
Johannesburg, Jan 27 (IANS) Indian Deputy High Commissioner to South Africa Vikas Swarup, who was the toast of the events held here to mark India’s 60th Republic Day, says he is overwhelmed by the international attention showered on him following the success of the movie “Slumdog Millionaire” that is based on his book “Q & A”.”Until now I really felt that there was no difficulty in carrying out my duties as both a writer and a diplomat, but it’s really been mind-boggling, the kind of attention that the film and the book have got,” Swarup told IANS in an interview.
“It’s extremely gratifying that a story which I dreamed up in my head is now resonating with audiences around the world.
“When I wrote the book over two months of my spare time as a diplomat in London, I thought it was a very Indian book that would appeal only to Indian audiences. Suddenly, not only has the book gone global, but the film has gone global and is taking the world by storm,” he said.
Swarup’s book had already been translated into Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati and Punjabi before the success of the film.
“There is now also interest in getting a Tamil edition going and I’m sure there will be interest in other Indian languages as well. It has already been translated into 37 languages and by the end of this month it may well be 40 because we have just received offers from Greece, Croatia and other places.
“Due to the worldwide publicity of the film, many people are coming forward for the book, which they may have otherwise not known about.”
Lauding Danny Boyle, the director of “Slumdog Millionaire”, Swarup said: “He has done an absolutely fantastic job with the film - the way he has shot India, the way he has shot Mumbai. I have never seen anything like it on screen, really.
“I think this is because he comes as an outsider with sensitivity into the project, but also as someone who has real empathy with the people of Mumbai and the city of Mumbai and I think that shows through in every frame of the film.”
Freshly returned from India, where he was busy promoting “Q & A”, Swarup said he was amused by hawkers trying to sell him pirated versions of his own book.
“I was travelling to the IMAX in Mumbai with my Indian publisher and at the red light intersections where they try to sell you pirated editions of various books, on that particular day, all of them were selling only my book!
“Since my picture was not on the cover of the book, hawkers pestered me to buy a copy without realising that I had written it. It was a surreal moment. My publisher said this was a tale to tell my grandchildren.”
“Slumdog Millionaire”, which bagged four Golden Globe awards, is a hot candidate among bookies for the Oscars but Swarup is not yet sure whether he will attend the biggest event in world cinema.
“My Japanese publishers want me to attend the film and book tie-in there. There is an offer to go to Canada. I’m receiving offers to address universities in America. Obviously, I can’t do all of those things.
“I have to see where in my day job I can get those periods where there is a lull in which I can perform these other things. In India I really didn’t have a minute’s rest with so many requests for interviews. I had to turn down many of them,” he said.
In South Africa, there will be a charity premiere as well as appearances at book signings and other screenings of the film.
“I consider South Africa my current home because I won my first prize for ‘Q & A’, the Boeke Prize, here. So I would love to do as much as I can to promote the book and the film here but these competing demands have to be reconciled so I can work out a proper schedule,” he added.
Swarup’s second book, “Six Suspects”, has also been optioned by the BBC, for a film, and a radio play in 13 languages. A third book is already in the pipeline.
“It has been conceptualised and I’m very excited about it. It may not be set in India (like the first two). What I bring to a book - a fast-paced narrative and engaging characters - will hopefully be there,” he said.
Despite the demands of a literary career, there is no question of Swarup giving up his job as a diplomat.
“I am constantly bemused by references to me as ‘the former Indian diplomat’ and I have to keep reminding people that I very much have my day job and I have no intention of giving it up because I love it. It’s a great honour for me to represent my country because India is the flavour of the world right now.”
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