Analysis of Slumdog Millionaire as an Adaptation of Q&A
Uncommon to popular belief, the hit movie Slumdog Millionaire finds formidable basis from a book entitled Q&A, a novel roughly resembling the overall plot of the movie. Certainly, remarkable differences delineate the resemblance of Slumdog Millionaire to Q&A, although both received remarkable attention due to the central theme of the common plot – that of a young man from the slums winning a popular quiz game show. This analysis proves to explore Slumdog Millionaire in relation to the fact that it is a film adaptation of Q&A. Did the movie fare well as an adaptation of the novel? Were there any significant variations? The foregoing questions serve as among those answered in this analysis, which explores two key differences as main points – the characterization of Who Will Win a Billion? (W3B; Q&A)/Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (WWTBAM; Slumdog Millionaire) host Prem Kumar and the purpose of Ram (Q&A)/Jamal (Slumdog Millionaire) in joining W3B/WWTBAM, respectively.
When one has read Q&A and watched Slumdog Millionaire or vice-versa, among the most noticeable differences there is between the two is the characterization of Prem Kumar, the host of both W3B and WWTBAM. Kumar, in Q&A, is a stronger character compared to that in Slumdog Millionaire. As the person who abused both the aging Bollywood actress (Neelima Kumari) Ram Mohammad Thomas (the main character and contest equivalent of Jamal Malik of Slumdog Millionaire) has served, and Nita (the love interest of Ram), Kumar holds a role that is shadier compared to that of Slumdog Millionaire. Ram joined W3B just so he could get even with Kumar for the things that he has done. Having gotten every answer correct with the help of personal experiences that emerged as recurring themes throughout the novel, Ram incurred the suspicion of Kumar. The producers of W3B, including Kumar, had Ram arrested on allegations of cheating. The producers of W3B deliberately intended to pick a young contestant from the slums – Ram, a waiter, in this case, who they thought would never have the ability to answer all of the questions correctly. That is because the producers of W3B do not have the money to provide for the grand price of one billion rupees. However, as the producers of W3B confronted the seemingly skillful manner of Ram in answering questions, Kumar accused him of cheating to prevent him from further advancing. As Ram saw his plan of revenge bound to fail, his lawyer, Smita Shah, enabled him to present his defense and return to W3B. When Ram entered W3B from his release, he planned to kill Kumar as a matter of exacting his revenge in a more deliberate manner. However, Kumar underwent a major turnaround towards the end of Q&A when he fed Ram the answer to the final question, which could have been the very one that could have stunted the winning prospects of Ram. Later, Kumar died inside his car – a discovery that left many, including Ram, to speculate that he might have committed suicide or fell victim to his co-producers (Boyle; Swarup).
In Slumdog Millionaire, the host of WWTBAM also goes by the same name (Prem Kumar), although he is considerably less involved in the personal life of the main character, Jamal. Kumar, being a host, merely suspected Jamal of cheating his way to the final question merely because his origin as a slum-dweller became a staggering point of dispute against his ability to answer the questions. Just like what happened to Ram in Q&A, Jamal explained to his lawyer that his personal experiences enabled him to answer all the questions. At first, Jamal sounded outrageous with his claim, although he eventually gained the trust of the police and allowed him to go back to the set of WWTBAM. Yet, unlike the case of Ram in Q&A, Jamal did not answer the final question with the help of Kumar. Rather, Jamal randomly selected the correct answer from the choices to win 20 million rupees, using his Phone-a-Friend to call his love interest Latika as she was running to her escape away from Javed after gaining assistance from Salim, the estranged brother of Jamal (Boyle).
Kumar did not feature as a major antagonist of Jamal in Slumdog Millionaire. Rather, Kumar only provided the common turning point of both the plots of Q&A and Slumdog Millionaire – ordering the arrest of Jamal on grounds of alleged cheating. Kumar, in Slumdog Millionaire, also seem to lack any personal attachment to Jamal. Jamal never sought to launch revenge against him unlike what Ram did in Q&A. Apart from that, Kumar did not feed Jamal the right answer to the last question as his namesake counterpart did in Q&A; he merely administered the set of questions and answered correctly in a random fashion (Boyle; Wojciehowski 123-124).
Overall, the importance of Kumar in both Q&A and Slumdog Millionaire stems from the fact that his involvement characterized the reason why Ram/Jamal joined W3B/WWTBAM. Kumar, in Q&A, serves as the subject of revenge of Ram, hence the reason why he joined W3B, hosted by the former. In Q&A, Kumar is considerably more hostile due to the linkages he has with the personal life of Ram. Therefore, revenge against Kumar drove Ram to join W3B, since the former abused both Kumari and Nita – two women close to the latter. Tragedy even beset Kumar in Q&A, since he died due to an uncertain case, disclosed as either suicide or murder by his co-producers of W3B (Boyle; Hardikar and Turibin 205-210; Swarup).
The Purpose of Joining W3B/WWTBAM
Both Q&A and Slumdog Millionaire featured different reasons on why Ram and Jamal, respectively, had to join W3B/WWTBAM, again in respective order. Ram joined W3B in order for him to save his love interest Nita by paying her pimp with enough money. Nita initially told her pimp that she wants to be free and marry Ram, but instead got a refusal as an answer. Apart from that, Ram knew that Kumar, the host of W3B, sexually abused Nita before. Thus, Ram joined W3B in a bid to seek revenge against Kumar. While Kumar was initially apprehensive towards Ram, he formed within himself a sense of guilt later in the story, causing him to give the correct answer to Ram in the final question. Overall, the purpose of Ram in joining W3B duly reflects his highly altruistic character. Whereas Ram may be timid and pessimistic, he nevertheless went on to join W3B and answer questions he never thought would come out in order for him to win one billion rupees, which he plans to use for Nita. The lack of motivation of Ram to become rich and his act of giving 400,000 rupees to a teacher with a rabies-stricken son further portrays his unselfishness (Hardikar and Turibin 205-212; Swarup).
In Slumdog Millionaire, Jamal joined WWTBAM in a bid to reconnect with his long-lost love interest Latika. Jamal knew Latika ever since they were children, as they formed a group alongside his estranged brother Salim called “The Three Musketeers”, in direct reference to the main characters of the similarly named popular novel of Alexandre Dumas. Latika parted ways with Jamal when Salim joined a criminal organization led by a man named Javed. Salim, alongside Jamal and Latika, once became beggars under the control of a man named Maman, in a bid for all three of them to survive. Yet, when they learned that Maman would blind all three of them, they escaped and sought for another means of income. Salim found the group of Javed as a result, but became selfish and soon took in Latika by force to work for them as a prostitute. By drawing a gun, Salim was able to send Jamal off and take Latika away. Yet, Jamal persisted in looking for Salim and Latika. Having failed to find Latika, Jamal entered WWTBAM as a contestant to attract the attention of both Salim and Latika. Jamal eventually succeeded in contacting Latika when he called the phone of Salim through the Phone-a-Friend option. During that time, Salim gave his phone to Latika as he instructed her to escape from the lair of Javed, as he apparently showed a change of conscience brought forth by his guilt towards his actions. Latika did not give Jamal the correct answer to the final question, which was about the name of the third member of The Three Musketeers, as both of them and Salim did not have any idea about the name, which alludes back to their childhood days. What Jamal got in return was luck in two folds – he gained contact with Latika and answered the final question correctly by randomly picking Aramis as his answer. In sum, Jamal featured a more unyielding persona quite similar to that exhibited by Ram in Q&A. However, Jamal has to be much stronger in his persistence since he has yet to contact Latika up until the final question of WWTBAM – a fact that may have caused others to give up easily. In other words, Jamal gambled on much luck – even risking arrest on spurious grounds, just for him to find what he is looking for (Boyle; Sengupta 599-609; Wojciehowski 123-125).
Synthesis: Is Slumdog Millionaire A Fitting Adaptation of Q&A?
When one has both read Q&A and watched Slumdog Millionaire, one would realize that there are not many differences between the two. Both Q&A and Slumdog Millionaire featured plots that are similar to one another, with both dealing with the realities of poverty-stricken people of India and the discrimination they have to face from authorities. Whereas Ram in Q&A had a different goal for winning W3B – that of bailing out his love interest Nita to set her free from her pimp, Jamal in Slumdog Millionaire had to become more adventurous as he purely gambled on his luck to find Latika. Other than the aforementioned and the characterization of Kumar, the host of W3B and WWTBAM, the patterns of the plots of both Q&A and Slumdog Millionaire were essentially similar. With that, it is safe to say that Slumdog Millionaire worked as a highly effective movie adaptation of Q&A, in that it featured more adventure into the already daring plots of both works (Boyle; Sengupta 599-609; Swarup).
Q&A worked well as a classic case of the main character wanting to reunite with the love of his life by bailing her out from her captor. Ram persisted in going through the rigors of W3B, knowing that he knows almost nothing about the world due to his lack of formal education but succeeding due to the incessant references the question posed unto his personal life experiences (Swarup). The same proposition of luck is present in Slumdog Millionaire, where Jamal did not expect that each of the questions leading to the final question have a strong relevance to each of his experiences in life as a slum dweller. Jamal, however, had to gamble much of his luck to find Latika, whose whereabouts he did not know about until he called the phone of Salim only to find out that it was she, while escaping from the lair of Javed, who answered. In that case, Jamal is extremely lucky – even to the point that the answered the final question by fluke, given that he did not have any idea of it other than the fact that he, alongside Latika and Salim, based their friendship on it, them being The Three Musketeers, despite not knowing their names from the original novel. Therefore, Slumdog Millionaire seems like an enhanced version of Q&A, complete with the common themes but more focused on the idea of fortune favoring the most daring personalities (Boyle; Wojciehowski 123-125).
There is no doubt that Slumdog Millionaire stands as an improved version of Q&A, both being nearly similar to one another but the latter being more adventurous. Perhaps Slumdog Millionaire transpired from the need to add better cinematographic flair to the original storyline espoused by Q&A, but it was nevertheless effective since it meshed well with the common theme of poverty in India. A look at the poverty situation in India would lead one to infer that affected people would need as much luck to survive in order to get through life. In that light, Jamal from Slumdog Millionaire stands as an inspiration to millions of less-fortunate Indians – that with determination, the will to live and the strength to take risks, they would be able to get out of their hapless situation.
Hardikar, Ashwini, and Laurel Mei Turibin. "Slumdog Millionaire for Popular Educators: Globalization, Feminism, and Media." South Asian Popular Culture 9.2 (2011): 205-214. Print.
Sengupta, Mitu. "A Million Dollar Exit from the Anarchic Slum-World: Slumdog Millionaire's Hollow Idioms of Social Justice." Third World Quarterly 31.4 (2010): 599-616. Print.
Slumdog Millionaire. Dir. Danny Boyle. Perf. Dev Patel and Freida Pinto. Celador Films and Film4 Productions, 2008. Film.
Swarup, Vikas. Q&A. United Kingdom: Doubleday, 2005. Print.
Wojciehowski, Hannah Chapelle. "Assessing Empathy: A Slumdog Questionnaire." Image & Narrative 11.2 (2010): 123-143. Print.