Q & A: Vikas Swarup & Slumdog Millionaire – Koenraad Elst

Slumdog Millionaire: Poverty porn by Danny Boyle.

Dr Koenraad ElstOnly a community of sleep-walkers could willingly come to the humiliating situation of the Hindus in India and the flood of anti-Hindu slander in the media. – Dr. Koenraad Elst

In the framework of Europalia India, a string of institutions including my Alma Mater, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, hosts a series of exhibitions, performances, films showings, conferences and lectures. Last Tuesday and Wednesday, Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal was to speak in Brussels and Leuven, but he didn’t show up, being detained in a sex scandal. The next day, on Thursday 21 November 2013, the speaker in Leuven was Vikas Swarup, philosopher-psychologist by diploma and diplomat by profession, but best known as the writer of the novel Q & A. This book was first published in Dutch translation in 2004, well before the English original came out. Unfortunately, I had (or made) no time to read his novel, until I saw its filmed version, Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire directed by Danny Boyle.

Vikas Swarup & Danny Boyle at the OscarsWell, anyway, what followed was question time. I asked Vikas Swarup whether he was disappointed or otherwise not so happy with the changes Danny Boyle had made while turning the novel Q & A into the movie Slumdog Millionaire. He acknowledged that changes had been made. Upon signing the contract, the representative of the movie crew had promised him that “the soul of the novel” would be respected, a sure way of saying that its body would be distorted. But he took this as normal and fairly insignificant. In reality, the changes were highly consequential and significant for Boyle’s agenda and perhaps for what western audiences have come to expect from a film located in India.

He explained how he had named the protagonist Ram Mohammed Thomas, representing every street kid in India, while Boyle had changed this into Jamal Malik, a fully Muslim name. He communalized the plot, with Jamal’s mother being killed by Hindu communal rioters and a Rama impersonation presiding over the Slumdog Millionaire: Bigoted Anti-Hindu Propaganda!violence. Boyle turned the protagonist into a poor hapless Muslim and the Hindus into the bad guys. In this context, blinding a child-beggar to make him earn more by singing a Hindu religious song (a practice of which even the missionary sister Jeanne Devos says she has never come across an actual case during decades of social work in Mumbai), and of course not a Muslim song, adds to the image of Hinduism as gruesome. Briefly, he turned an innocent story into an anti-Hindu story.

The fact that the writer, as a somewhat secularized Hindu, representative for dozens or even hundreds of millions of similar Hindus, fails to see the hostile intention and the very partisan effect of this manipulation, says a lot about the silly and ultimately suicidal mentality prevalent among Hindus. Only a community of sleep-walkers could willingly come to the humiliating situation of the Hindus in India and the flood of anti-Hindu slander in the media. – Koenraad Elst Blog, 25 November 2013

Dr. Koenraad Elst is an historian, linguist and orientalist in Belgium.

One Response

  1. My dream some days back.

    It is 1938. In remote village in Bhelpur, the village mukhiya is angry and he gives a speech that we have to find out who translated the Mythili libaaz of inheritance in a twisted manner to Lord Boyle and Lord Simon in English. Yes , after three days, they find a new Indian Civil Service (ICS) recruit who was posted in Kenya earlier had translated all this in a twisted manner. The Mukhiya was furious to learn that Vikram Roop, the ICS had done this twisted translation. The villagers with the Mukhiya plan their action. They go to the learned Daulatram to show this and what action could be taken. The twisted translation had made them loose most of their land and they had become paupers. Slowly they plan. Daulatram comes with a smelly obnoxious idea. Why not make Lord Boyle, Lord Simon and Vikram Roop wear only a langot and dip them in a pit full of excreta. ” Excreta !!! Excreta !!! shouts the Mukhiya to Daulatram. Daulatram responds ” Sirf unko excreta yanike goo me doobana hai aur phir upar keechna hai. Unko maloom hona chaiye ke hamara goo karne ki jagah aur udhar ka samne wale sara zameen ko lekar, hamahe kitna parashani pahuchayi”.

    The villagers of Bhelpur unite and when all unite there is success. The day of the dip arrives. The entire village watches the three wearing a langot and being dipped in pit of excreta. The Mukhiya is jubilant at this. He keeps on shouting ” Excreta!!! Excreta!!! and the villagers shout in chorus in their own way. The chorus resounds ” Excreta!! Excreta!!! as the three are lifted up and dipped back into the pit of excreta for number of times.

    I also shout ” Excreta !!! Excreta!! and with joy fall off my bed in my sleep. The cleaner who was cleaning my hotel room, (it was early morning) was a bit confused. First he smiled and then he asked me ” Are you doing some excreta analysis” I said “No” getting up from the floor. The cleaner said ” It is all shit now , no more excreta” He inquired whether I was hurt. Fortunately the joy of the dream , made me only scream , as I feel on my fleshy portion.

    I did not talk to him much, but inquired with him as to whether he was doing a part time cleaning job. Yes he said , I studied upto intermediate in college and then hard times came , I had to do a correspondence course with this cleaning job to support.
    I knew in 1938 , shit had not arrived. I brushed my teeth and had coffee and then looked at the mirror and said to myself ” You have a script now , just expand it”

    It is some days now after the dream, but just see how in the subconscious , I am still unhappy about the twisted facts in Slum Dog Millionaire film straying away from the original script. I leave it to some good script writer to expand on my dream and write a full fledged story. Go ahead readers, the sky is the limit if you are not bothered about the credit.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: