Business Today

How Slumdog made its millions

After the Oscars, Slumdog Millionaire is raking in money from the book and the film. Here’s the business behind the phenomenon.

     Print Edition: March 22, 2009

After the Oscars, Slumdog Millionaire is raking in money from the book and the film. Here’s the business behind the phenomenon.

After the announcement of the Oscar nominations, Slumdog Millionaire’s Director Danny Boyle sent an SMS to author Vikas Swarup, saying: “You were there at the beginning and I want you to be there at the symbolic end (the Oscars).” Swarup obliged, though the Oscars were hardly the symbolic end. In fact, it started a wave, which is helping both the book and the film set the cash registers ringing.

In the last three years, Swarup’s debut novel Q&A sold a mere 15,000 copies in India. Since January, however, after Slumdog Millionaire, based on his novel, started winning international awards, sales rocketed and the publisher, Random House, sold 50,000 new copies of the book (now called Slumdog Millionaire). They hope to sell an equal number in the next few months. Swarup, who is not happy about the title Q&A morphing into Slumdog Millionaire, says: “It’s totally economics. If I want my story to be told to a large number of people, the title of the movie is the instantaneous recall…. A film is the ultimate medium.”

The film had made $162 million (Rs 802 crore) in global box office revenues till the time this magazine went to press. However, it has thus far failed to match its global winning run in India. The revenues earned here do not come anywhere near the top five grossers of 2008-09. In fact, it has raked in less than a fifth of the revenues notched up by Bollywood’s top grosser in 2008-09—Ghajini. Distributed by Fox STAR Studios, the film, which was released in both English as well as Hindi across 351 screens, has managed just $6 million (Rs 30 crore) in India so far. Vijay Singh, CEO, Fox STAR Studios India, however, says: “It has delivered beyond our expectations in the Indian market and is running strong in its fifth week.” After the Oscars, officials claim there has been a surge in demand from the plexes and the number of shows has doubled. Aditya Shroff, VP (Programming), Fame Cinemas, says: “We are playing both versions in our plexes and both are doing equally well.”

When Swarup sold the global film rights of Q&A to Film4 of the UK in 2004, a year before the book was published, it didn’t bring him anything close to a million bucks.

Times, however, have changed. While the new edition of his book promises him a lot more money, Swarup is riding high on success and the global film rights for his next novel, a whoddunit titled Six Suspects, have already been snapped up by the BBC and Starfield Productions.


Book Building

  • Between 2005 and January 2009, Vikas Swarup's Q&A had sold a mere 15,000 copies in India

  • Since January, publisher Random House has sold 50,000 new copies of the book (now called Slumdog Millionaire)

  • Book sales have gone up by 300 per cent after the release of the movie

Film’s Fortunes

  • Gross box office collections till date: Rs 30 crore from 350 screens

  • It ranks amongst the Top 100 best opening weeks of all time in India

  • The Hindi version has contributed to two-thirds of the box office revenue

  • It is the sixth biggest release for any Hollywood film in India

Saumya Bhattacharya and Anusha Subramanian

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