Screenplay writer Simon Beaufoy says that though he took the basic core of Vikas Swaroop's novel Q&A, he had to completely re-write the original material for the film Slumdog Millionaire.
"I took the initial concept of a slum kid who wins all the money and gets arrested. But the book is like a series of independent short stories. That didn't work for Slumdog Millionaire. So I went to Mumbai to look for new experience and to invent a backbone for the film. I turned the film into a love story. So I invented Latika, Frieda Pinto's character, as the spine of the story. Latika doesn't even exist in the book."
Beaufoy whose earlier credits include Full Monty, says he had to completely re-acclimatize himself to write this Mumbai-based film. "We were very very careful not to portray Mumbai's people as victims. When I went around the streets on Mumbai researching stories and characters to put into the film, the local people would often come forward to help us out on location to beat the heat with glasses of water, tea and kind words. They saw me as this wildly-sweating whiteman running around frantically on the streets and felt rather sorry for me."
Simon says he'd love to return to Mumbai in his screenwriting. "I'd love to do Slumdog Billionaire and Trillionaire. India is such an exciting place. I had first visited there when I was 18. Now it's become such a different place. The British legacy has been erased and replaced by this extraordinary desire to be the no.1 country in the world. You cannot not respond to India's drive and energy. Those are the qualities that people here in Toronto at the festival have noticed in our film."
Writing Slumdog Millionaire has changed Simon's life. "It was incredibly rewarding for me. I've been writing for twelve years. I've been brought up on a British tradition of screenwriting. In India, I found that to be a completely inappropriate way of writing. Now after writing Slumdog Millionaire, I can't go back to writing the way I used to."