I’d love to go to India some day. After reading this book and Beneath a Marble Sky in February, I’m ready. Does anyone want to pay for my flight? Before my trip, I’ll first review the book by Vikas Swarup, and then I’ll talk about the movie and some of the differences between the two.
I really like how this book was structured. In the opening chapter, we find Ram Mohammed Thomas in jail for cheating on a quiz show. Did he cheat or was he just lucky? How could an orphan from the slums answer every question correctly? Then, the following chapters go through each question and tell us a story of how Ram Mohammed Thomas might know the answer.
What kind of name is Ram Mohammed Thomas anyway? He was actually named that to represent the three main religions of India. I thought it was funny how he used only one of his three names depending on the situation he was in. I enjoyed each story, but there were some horrific ones. Children should not have to go through such horrible acts.
One of my favorite quotes from the book:
The sight of all this opulence makes me uneasy. In Mumbai, Salim and I would gate-crash the weddings of the rich for free food, but we never grudged them their wealth. But seeing these rich college boys spending money like paper, I am gripped by a totally new sense of inadequacy. The contrast with my own imperfect life pinches me with the force of a physical hurt. Not surprisingly, my hunger just shrivels up and dies despite the mounds of tempting dishes lying on my table. I realize then that I have changed. And I wonder what it feels like to have no desires left becuase you have satisfied them all, smothered them with money even before they are born. Is an existence without desire very desirable? And is the poverty of desire better than rank poverty itself? I think about these questions but do not arrive at any satisfactory answers.
Then, the movie was already at the cheap theatre, so I went to see it for $1.50. This was on a Wednesday. If I’d seen it a day earlier, it would have only been 50 cents. 50 CENTS!! I really liked the movie. The sights and sounds of India were just absolutely fantastic. Unfortunately, the slum scenes were also particularly effective.
One of the biggest changes from the book is that in the movie, Salim and Jamal (they changed his name) are brothers instead of just friends. I could see why that might make things easier, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about the character difference in Salim. I do think I prefer the relationship the two boys had in the book rather than the movie, but it didn’t stop my enjoyment of the film at all.
In the book, the quiz show winnings are $1 billion rupees, and in the movie, it’s only 20 million rupees. I’m not sure why they felt the need to change the prize and the title of the quiz show, but whatever. In addition, some of the quiz questions were changed to fit the plot of the movie rather than the book. I did miss the Australian chapter and the story about his lifeline call, but I do realize there was absolutely no way to fit everything into the movie. I enjoyed the movie for ‘the movie experience’ and seeing the sights and sounds of India, but I do think I preferred the plot of the book.
2005, 318 pp.