It takes talent and a bit of luck to write a bestselling novel.
It takes a lot of luck to get a filmmaker with talent to buy the rights to your book. And create magic out of it.
I am talking about the celebrated Slumdog Millionaire. Adapted from the novel Q & A by Vikas Swarup.
Was Slumdog 70% like the original? Doesn't look like it. Many of the key characters, events and incidents were changed. To quote just a small example:
In Q & A, the first-person narrator and quiz show contestant is named Ram Mohammad Thomas, whereas the protagonist is named Jamal Malik in Slumdog Millionaire. Ram was abandoned at birth in the clothing bin of a Catholic church in Delhi, and raised for eight years by a benevolent English priest named Father Timothy.
His surname comes from a family that adopted him for three days before giving him back to the church. Local religious leaders suggested his first and middle names, on the theory that his birth parents might be either Hindu or Muslim. Father Timothy and the Catholic Church do not appear in Slumdog Millionaire, nor does Delhi.
You can play compare-compare here. But despite the many changes, Slumdog retained the seed of the idea which sprang in Vikas Swarup's brain. And that was a boy from the slums winning a million bucks in a quiz show. Because every question asked was in *some way* connected to an event or experience in his life.
That seed was nurtured by people who were really gifted in their craft - making a compelling audiovisual drama onscreen.
The writer of Slumdog Millionaire was the hugely talented Simon Beaufoy (of 'The Full Monty' fame). Because of Simon Beaufoy, the hugely talented Danny Boyle took a look at the script and went on to make the film.
Ultimately, Simon Beaufoy won an Oscar for 'best adapted screenplay. And he did not forget to thank Vikas, even in his acceptance speech...
What's my point? Just one simple thing:
It does not matter how close or how far the film is from the book.
I am sure Vikas Swarup had a kickass agent/ lawyer to negotiate his contract. One who would not agree to let his client's name appear in 'rolling credits' (the ones that whiz by at the very end of the film!)
As for that acceptance speech... You can be a Chatur Ramalingam in life or a Phansuk Wangdu. And you know who we'd all rather be!