"Slumdog" is no cliche, says Indian author

Fri Feb 20, 2009 8:30am EST
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By Rebecca Harrison

PRETORIA (Reuters) - There's an irony behind complaints that Oscar contender "Slumdog Millionaire" recycles cliches about impoverished India: it's based on a book by not only an Indian, but a high-level ambassador for the country.

Vikas Swarup, whose novel "Q&A" became the basis for British director Danny Boyle's rags-to-riches drama about a Mumbai slum kid, is also India's deputy high commissioner to South Africa.

Swarup penned the novel at the end of a diplomatic posting in London. Rather like his central character, who is thrust from obscurity to become a millionaire, he's an accidental celebrity, and appears slightly shell-shocked by the film's success.

"It still seems like a fairytale," he told Reuters in an interview at his residence in Pretoria, relaxing on an earth-brown sofa just a few hours before flying to Los Angeles for Sunday's Oscars ceremony.

"Who could imagine a book I wrote for a lark in 2003 would one day go on to become this mega success film?"

Boyle's team changed the name of Swarup's main character, the ending of the book, the central thesis around luck and destiny and the title -- opting for something the author notes is more evocative, but also more provocative.

"Slumdog" has irked some in India, who say the name is offensive and the movie, about a slum dweller who wins a Hindi TV game show, reinforces western stereotypes about the country.

But, a diplomat to the core and perhaps cheered by the film's 10 Oscar nominations, Swarup is careful not to complain.   Continued...

<p>A scene from "Slumdog Millionaire" is shown in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/Fox Searchlight</p>