The latest novel from Vikas Swarup, the author of the book Q&A, which was adapted into Danny Boyle’s Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire, is to be produced as a radio drama for Radio 4. It is slated to be aired as a ten-part series in the Woman’s Hour slot this summer.
The Accidental Apprentice is the tale of Sapna, a university-educated shop assistant in Delhi, who one day is approached by one of India’s richest men and offered the chance to become the CEO of his vast corporation if she can pass seven tests.
The book will be adapted by John Dryden and Ayeesha Menon for Goldhwak Productions, the team behind the award-winning radio dramatisation of Swarup’s Q&A.
Speaking to RadioTimes.com, Menon revealed: “Swarup’s very interesting…because he has a way of approaching India in a popular way; he finds an interesting, popular angle to go at things and tell serious stories through that. Some of it borders on the implausible, but it’s almost as if you don’t care because you enjoy the ride so much.”
Dryden also appreciates the different view of the subcontinent that Swarup offers in his novels:
“What he does so well is create these really engaging characters and situations that show you this side of India that I felt I’d never before seen written about.”
It’s not just the subject matter that attracted the director/producer to Swarup’s work. “He’s really into these slightly unusual structures that are slightly unbelievable, but work so well in drama.”
Dryden thinks that this dramatization will be just as exciting as his award-winning take on Q&A.
“It’s a great thriller. He’s very good at these twists and turns, and taking it off in different directions. In a way it’s a female version of Slumdog Millionaire, though it’s less gritty, it’s more about the middle classes. He takes an interesting line on that: in India the poor and the rich survive in a way because they’re needed by the politicians for their votes, but the middle classes are kind of forgotten.”
Goldhawk Productions have also been commissioned to bring to the airwaves a dramatisation of Rohinton Mistry’s 1995 Booker-shortlisted novel, A Fine Balance.
Set in Mumbai between 1975 and 1984, during the Emergency when the Indian government expanded its powers considerably and cracked down on civil liberties, it has been a story that Dryden has wanted to bring to the radio for a long time.
“When I read it, I couldn’t put it down. It’s a really depressing book, but you don’t quite realise that until the very end, what a bleak book it is. It’s only afterwards that you think, that’s so relentlessly depressing in terms of a view of human nature and what life holds for us all.
“That’s not a very good sell really, is it?”
But he’s determined it is a story that will enrapture radio listeners.
“There’s something else in it that is kind of wonderful, and which really hooks you; it is a sort of triumph of the human spirit and that is really inspiring.”
A Fine Balance will be broadcast in the winter of 2014/15.