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Slumdog Millionaire (Swarup)

Slumdog Millionaire (originally published as Q & A)
Vikas Swarup, 2005
Simon & Schuster
336 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781439136652


Summary 
Vikas Swarup's spectacular debut novel opens in a jail cell in Mumbai, India, where Ram Mohammad Thomas is being held after correctly answering all twelve questions on India's biggest quiz show, Who Will Win a Billion? It is hard to believe that a poor orphan who has never read a newspaper or gone to school could win such a contest. But through a series of exhilarating tales Ram explains to his lawyer how episodes in his life gave him the answer to each question.

Ram takes us on an amazing review of his own history—from the day he was found as a baby in the clothes donation box of a Delhi church to his employment by a faded Bollywood star to his adventure with a security-crazed Australian army colonel to his career as an overly creative tour guide at the Taj Mahal.

Swarup's Q & A [Slumdog Millionaire] is a beguiling blend of high comedy, drama, and romance that reveals how we know what we know — not just about trivia, but about life itself. Cutting across humanity in all its squalor and glory, Vikas Swarup presents a kaleidoscopic vision of the struggle between good and evil — and what happens when one boy has no other choice in life but to survive. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio 
Birth—1963
Where—Allahabad, India
Education—Allahabad University
Awards—Exclusive Book Boeke Prize (South Africa); Prix
  Grand Public (France)
Currently—posted to Pretoria, South Africa


Vikas Swarup is a 1986 Indian Foreign Service bureaucrat, an Indian novelist and diplomat who has served in Turkey, the United States, Ethiopia and Great Britain. He was born in Allahabad into a family of lawyers and did his schooling at Boys' High School & College, Allahabad. He pursued further studies at Allahabad University in Psychology, History and Philosophy. In 1986 he joined the Indian Foreign Service. Since August, 2006, he has been posted in Pretoria as India's Deputy High Commissioner to South Africa.

Swarup's debut novel, Q and A, [aka Slumdog Millionaire in film] tells the story of a penniless waiter in Mumbai who becomes the biggest quiz show winner in history. Critically acclaimed in India and abroad, this international bestseller has been translated into 41 languages.

Acclaim: book and film
• The novel was shortlisted for the Best First Book by the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and won South Africa’s Exclusive Books Boeke Prize 2006, as well as the Prix Grand Public at the 2007 Paris Book Fair.

• A BBC radio play based on the book won the Gold Award for Best Drama at the Sony Radio Academy Awards 2008 and the IVCA Clarion Award 2008.

• Harper Collins brought out the audio book, read by Kerry Shale, which won the Audie for best fiction audio book of the year.

• Film4 of the UK had optioned the movie rights and the movie titled Slumdog Millionaire (SDM) directed by Danny Boyle was first released in the US to great critical acclaim.

• SDM won the People's Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival and three awards (Best Film, Best Director and Most Promising Newcomer) at the British Independent Film Awards 2008.

• The National Board of Review picked SDM as the best film of 2008.

• The movie swept five awards out of its six nominations at the Critics' Choice Awards, and all four nominations awarded at the Golden Globe Awards which includes best director, picture, screenplay & score, and seven BAFTA Awards.

• It received 10 Oscar nominations of which it won 8, including Best Picture and Best Director, as well as prizes for cinematography, sound mixing, score and film editing. SDM’s eight Oscars was the largest total won by a single film since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King won 11 in 2004.

More
Swarup's second novel Six Suspects, (2008) and has been translated into several languages and optioned for a film by the BBC and Starfield productions.

Swarup's short story "A Great Event" has been published in The Children’s Hours: Stories of Childhood, an anthology of stories about childhood to support Save the Children and raise awareness for its fight to end violence against children.

Vikas Swarup has participated in the Oxford Literary Festival, the Turin International Book Fair, the Auckland Writers’ Conference, the Sydney Writers’ Festival, the Kitab Festival in New Delhi, the St. Malo International Book & Film Festival in France, the Words on Water Literary Festival at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, and the Jaipur Literature Festival in India.

He and his wife, Aparna, have two sons, Aditya and Varun. (From Wikipedia.)



Book Reviews
It was an inspired idea by Vikas Swarup to write Q & A.... A broad and sympathetic humanity underpins the whole book
Sunday Telegraph (London)


A rare, seemingly effortless brew of humour, drama, romance and social realism.... Swarup...has achieved a triumph with this thrilling, endearing work which gets into the heart and soul of modern India.
New Zealand Herald


Vikas Swarup weaves a delightful yarn. With an easy style, Q & A is sweet, sorrowful and funny. An enchanting tale.
Sunday Tribune (India)


Ram's funny and poignant odyssey explores the causes of good and evil and illustrates how, with a little luck, the best man sometimes wins. Deborah Donovan
Booklist


When Ram Mohammad Thomas, an orphaned, uneducated waiter from Mumbai, wins a billion rupees on a quiz show, he finds himself thrown in jail. (Unable to pay out the prize, the program's producers bribed local authorities to declare Ram a cheater.) Enter attractive lawyer Smita Shah, to get Ram out of prison and listen to him explain, via flashbacks, how he knew the answers to all the show's questions. Indian diplomat Swarup's fanciful debut is based on a sound premise: you learn a lot about the world by living in it (Ram has survived abandonment, child abuse, murder). And just as the quiz show format is meant to distill his life story (each question prompts a separate flashback), Ram's life seems intended to distill the predicament of India's underclass in general. Rushdie's Midnight's Children may have been a model: Ram's brash yet innocent voice recalls that of Saleem Sinai, Rushdie's narrator, and the sheer number of Ram's near-death adventures represents the life of the underprivileged in India, just as Saleem wore a map of India, quite literally, on his face. But Swarup's prose is sometimes flat and the story's picaresque form turns predictable. Ram is a likable fellow, but this q&a with him, though clever, grows wearying.
Publishers Weekly



Discussion Questions 
1. Why does Vikas Swarup choose the name “Ram Mohammad Thomas” for his protagonist? The names represent three different religions—besides displaying India’s diversity, what does this say about Ram Mohammad Thomas as a person?

2. When Ram recounts the story of Father Timothy, he repeatedly refers to himself as an “idiot orphan boy” (pg. 49). Considering how well Father Timothy treats him, why does he describe himself in this manner?

3. Ram has a recurring dream of a tall woman with black hair that obscures her face. At what moments does he have this dream, and why? What does this woman represent? Is she his biological mother? A symbol of hope? Abandonment?

4. In telling Gudiya’s story, Ram asks “But what was Gudiya’s crime? Simply that she was born a girl and Shantaram was her father?” (pg. 68). Are there other women in this novel who are treated poorly simply because of their sex? Do any female characters not need Ram’s protection? How would you describe his relationships with women?

5. Several characters, especially Ram and Salim, are big movie fans. Is there a reason for this? Do films help them escape their frequently dreary lives, is it simply a significant part of their culture, or is there another reason?

6. What are Ram’s ambitions in life? Why does he tell Prem Kumar he doesn’t know how he’s going to spend the billion rupees? Why does Ram turn in Colonel Taylor? Is this retribution for the colonel’s spying, his derogatory comments about Indians, or for the way he treats his family? Or does Ram simply want to collect his wages before returning to Mumbai?

7. “The city may have chosen to ignore the ugly growth of Dharavi, but a cancer cannot be stopped simply by being declared illegal” (pg. 134). Are there any other problems that go unacknowledged because they’re too painful to face? If so, what impact does this have on the characters?

8. What do you think of Salim’s decision to give Ahmed, the hit man, a picture of Maman? Did Salim have another choice? Is he guilty of murder? Did Ram have other options besides throwing Shantaram down the stairs? Are these violent acts justifiable considering the behavior of the victims?

9. Consider the impact of Western culture on Ram. He dreams of eating at places like McDonald’s and Pizza Hut, and he practices “speaking Australian.” Why is this important to him?

10. Why does Ram want to have “manageable dreams” (pg. 279)? What does he mean by this? And does this conflict with him appearing on a game show to win one billion rupees?

11. Considering he believes he’s already murdered two people, why is Ram unable to kill Prem Kumar?

12. How do you think Ram changes, if at all, during his eighteen years? Is he a stronger person at the end of Q&A than he was as a boy? Which journey had the greatest impact on him, either for better or worse?

13. “I realized a long time ago that dreams have power only over your own mind; but with money you can have power over the minds of others” (pg. 316). In relation to this novel, would you agree with this statement? Are there characters without money that are able to influence others?

14. Despite his lack of formal education, Ram is able to answer twelve questions correctly in order to win a billion rupees. Was this pure luck, or do you think he’ll always be able to find the answers to life’s many questions? What do you envision the future holds for Ram?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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