Book Smart: Oscar Reads Slumdog Millionaire


Slumdog Millionaire is melting hearts and snapping up awards across the planet (hello, 10 Oscar nods?). This means we are going to get to see M.I.A. wear something insane when she performs her nominated song “O Saya.” Awesome.

The movie tells the tale of Jamal, a chai-wallah (tea boy) who wins the Indian version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” It’s based on  Vikas Swarup’s Indian bestseller “Q&A.” However, it’s not just the title that has been changed.

Here are other ways director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Simon Beaufroy fiddled with the original:


  • Movie: The show is called” Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?”, it’s real-life title.
  • Book: Swarup calls it “Who Will Win a Billion?”, a made-up version of the same thing.


  • Movie: The hero, Jamal Malik, is a Muslim whose mother is attacked and killed by Hindus.
  • Book: The character’s name is Ram Mohammed Thomas, a symbolic mix of Indian, Muslim, and Christian names.


  • Movie: We first meet adorable little Jamal running through the slums of Mumbai; he lives with his mother until she is killed in a raid
  • Book: We meet Ram as a baby, left on the doorstep of a Delhi church


  • Movie: Perhaps the most complex relationship in the film is between Jamal and his tougher brother Salim
  • Book: Jamal and Salim are just friends, so the betrayal at the end does not carry the same weight


  • Movie: Jamal meets and falls in love with Latika, a fellow street kid, as a young child; after they are heartbreakingly separated, he spends most of the movie looking for her, going on TV hoping she’ll see him
  • Book: Ram meets his lovergirl as a teenager; she is a prostitute and he goes on TV to win the money to buy her from her pimp.


  • Movie: Jamal is arrested after the second-to-last question, suspected of cheating.
  • Book: He’s thrown in the slammer after winning the whole shebang.

What does author Swarup think of all these radical departures? “The film is beautiful. The plot is riveting. The child actors are breathtaking.” And paid, like, zero dollars.


One Response to “Book Smart: Oscar Reads Slumdog Millionaire”

  1. Slumdog Millionaire Grabs 8 Oscars. You Grab Fast Facts on Why. « TheFakeScan Says:

    […] Writing (Adapted Screenplay) Based on Vikas Swarup’s award winning novel “Q&A,” there were many subtle switcharoos from the original plot.  […]

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