By and large, I find books superior to film. I can often be heard complaining and moaning about how the directors messed it all up, they cut pivotal scenes, the art department built the sets wrong, and that the authors should be on the wire contacting lawyers at this very moment to sue the film industry for destroying their fantastic work of literary art.
I feel so strongly about this philosophy of book reading vs. film viewing that I own the Threadless shirt “Movies: Ruining the Book since 1920″ and I wear it often. I have been burned by movie after movie that did not live up to their literary counterparts. Eragon is a primary example. To put it flatly, the movie version stunk and the “creative licensing” that the director employed made it nearly impossible to transform the remaining books into movies without completely confusing the viewer. So many things were left out… While the Lord of the Rings trilogy was fantastically done, I will ever be disappointed about the way the Elf villages were portrayed and I still think that my imagination was much better at depicting them.
I make it my business to read the book first. I have been known to stay up until the wee hours of the morning, reading through the night, so that my husband doesn’t have to wait to see some Blockbuster film just because of my hard and fast rule that the book must come first.
Spoiler Warning for both the novel and the movie!!
Read beyond this point at your own risk — You have been warned! If you at all plan to read the book and/or watch the movie, consider reading this blog post AFTER you have done both!!!
I broke this rule last month. By accident, I swear.
We watched the Golden Globe Awards, and marveled at how this Bollywood film, this underdog so to speak, Slumdog Millionaire could bring it’s unknown cast and crew to Hollywood and literally clean up. Normally, my other philosophy is that if something has gained a cult following I will dig my heels in and refuse to be a part of it (I did this with the Harry Potter books, and it took my good friend Christina to use some very well placed reverse psychology tactics to get me to read them, which I, incidentally, loved). However, Elliot in the Morning was raving about it on their show the next day. I’ve recently started to actually pay attention to Eliot’s recommendations as I haven’t been disappointed yet. (There was no mention of the movie’s literary counterpart on Elliot’s show.)
So, I suggested “Date Nite” and popped right on over to Fandango.com and purchased tickets to Slumdog Millionaire.
That right there is saying a lot for me. I am more known to go to Costco and buy the discount tickets, trade in some of my American Express points to get free tickets, or tag along with my parents when they are apt to pay for the movie if we’ve paid for dinner. For me to purchase evening tickets to a performance at full price I need a pretty good guarantee that the movie is worth it. For some reason, I had an inkling that Slumdog Millionaire was going to be one of those films (my next American Beauty).
The lights went down and the credits rolled through and immediately we are slapped in the face with a torture scene in an Indian prison. Honestly, it wasn’t too too graphic, which I was thankful for.
The film (because it truly deserves the title film rather than movie) unfolds as an Indian police inspector questions Jamal Malik on how it was possible that he had fared so well on the quiz show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? The crux is that they believe he cheated. His story is tragic, but as luck would have it, each question asked was pin pointed by a particularly memorable (good or bad) event in Jamal’s life. Jamal doesn’t care about money, he cares about finding his long lost love, Latika. And his journey to get onto the show was his plan to finally get her back. And while I posted the spoiler warning, I just don’t want to tell you that much about the movie because I think it is more important that you watch it for yourself.
Though tragic, the film was amazing, touching, gripping, everything that a really good work of cinematography should be. And while Elliot said that he left the theater with misty eyes (not his words), I wasn’t moved to tears. I was so impressed that I haven’t stopped talking about it.
I should mention that as the credits rolled through in the beginning of the movie, there was no mention of the book. In fact, there was only a fleeting moment during the end credits that the title and author flashed across the screen. If the title had been anything more complex I probably wouldn’t have even been able to remember it as I wasn’t able to pull up Evernote on my iPhone fast enough to jot it down before its credit was gone!
Q&A: A Novel
I should have saw it right off. I have a disdain for novels that tout themselves as “A Novel.” Let me get this off my chest.
We know that your book is a novel. We retrieved it off the shelves from the “Fiction” aisle or we have read the reviews on Amazon and seen the categories. It is unnecessary for you to subtitle your book “A Novel.” In fact, it is degrading to the novel.
OK, moving on…
I actually ordered Q&A: A Novel on my way out of the theater with my fantastic Amazon iPhone app. My DH thought I was crazy. I waited and waited and waited and it took literally forever for my novel to arrive. Apparently, Amazon was out and had to wait for new stock. When it arrived on my doorstep, I started it immediately.
Immediately, I was disappointed.
The characters aren’t even the same. The impetus behind why the main character (Ram Mohammad Thomas, not Jamal Malik) is even on the quiz show isn’t the same. The person who is questioning him isn’t the same. The majesty of the entire plot was completely lost.
The book was flat, evoked no emotion, and the characters for the most part weren’t particularly endearing, and in short I hated it.
I was shocked when I found out that Ram Mohammad Thomas and Salim were not brothers. I was also shocked when I found out that Ram Mohammad Thomas was the older of the two boys! I was further shocked when I found out that Latika is really not Latika, but Nita and she’s a prostitute that he meets when he is 17-years-old! Granted, he falls in love with her and wants to avenge her wrong doing, but he goes on Who Will Win a Billion? to not find his lost love, but to kill Prem Kumar because he was the man who hurt both Nita (his love) and Nelieema, his Tragedy Queen actress employer (the only mother figure he ever had)! The boy in the movie, Jamal Malik, doesn’t have an evil dark bone in his body. I was shocked that this character in the book could plot murder (though he doesn’t carry through with it).
Additionally, the book, shockingly enough, seemed more sensational than the film. There were so many times when I was astounded thinking that some one’s luck just can’t possibly be as good as Ram Mohammad Thomas’s! While the film did seem to portray a seedier, darker, what I would think was a more realistic portrayal of poverty in India.
I finished the novel last night and I felt awful. I was depressed that I had hyped the book up so much and it just failed to meet all my expectations. I rarely rate a book under 3 stars, because I love to read. Q&A: A Novel gets at best 2 stars. It will sit on my library shelves and get dusty and I will most likely never touch it again.
Do not read it. Do not purchase it if you must read it. That is what the library is for. That’s what friends are for. Although a good friend would just tell you to watch the film. There is a reason that the film won Golden Globe Awards but the book didn’t make it the the New York Times Best Seller list.
Other links to reviews of Q&A: A Novel: