Log Line

A young man from the slums of Mumbai attempts to achieve the life that he feels destined to live with the girl whose love he feels destined to share.

Overview

Medium: Film

Writer(s): Simon Beaufoy

Director(s): Danny Boyle, Loveleen Tandan

Production Co.(s): Celador Films, Film4, Pathé Pictures International

Story by: Vikas Swarup

Adapted from: Q & A (Novel) by Vikas Swarup (© 2005)

When we-the-audience first meet Jamal Malik, the main character of Slumdog Millionaire, he is in police custody in Mumbai, India, undergoing torture to wrest from him a confession that he is cheating (and how he is doing it) on the Indian television show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. Jamal works as a "chai wallah" (tea worker) for an Indian telemarketing firm, hails from the slums of Mumbai, and is not formally educated. So when he appears as a contestant on the show, he is mocked from the outset by its arrogant and condescending host/producer, Prem, who expects him to fail early on. But Jamal possesses a natural intelligence honed by years of living on the streets, and when he succeeds in answering questions to the penultimate level (winning ten million rupees), Prem has him arrested for cheating.

When Jamal maintains his innocence despite beatings and electric shock treatments at the hands of a police sergeant, the police inspector interrogates him, playing a videotape of the show and questioning Jamal regarding how he knew the correct answer to each question. Jamal's explanations provide a cascading series of jumping-off points that work to create a rich, retrospective tapestry of Jamal's life—from his impoverished childhood in a Muslim slum in Mumbai, through a vagabond life of trickster-ish and mildly lawless youth with his brother, Salim, to his appearance on the television show.

In the process, we find out how Jamal comes to know the sometimes-obscure bits of information that have allowed him to succeed on the show, such as the name of a famous Indian actor, what the Hindu god Rama is depicted as holding in his right hand, and the author of a famous Indian poem. And each answer reveals another aspect or element of his life journey—in this case, respectively, his dogged determination to achieve his life aims (even if it means dropping into a pit of human excrement), the loss of his mother in a Hindu massacre that spread through his Muslim slum, and his subtle capture by a man named Maman, who uses children as professional beggars.

But most important, we are introduced to the primary driving force in Jamal's life journey—his affection for Latika, an orphaned girl that he meets on the day that his mother is killed and whom he invites that night to share shelter from a driving rain. Although his story from that point forward takes many twists and turns as he and Salim navigate the seas of life on the fringe of criminality, it is his love for Latika and strong belief that they are destined to be together that serves as the recurring focal point for his most significant actions and feelings.

When Jamal, Salim, and Latika find themselves in a camp run by Maman, Jamal tells Latika of his desire to become a rich and famous singer (duped as he is by an insidious deception of Maman). But when he speaks of his dreams of success, he does so in terms of what it will mean for he and Latika together, not in terms of himself alone. And when he is saved by Salim from having his eyes put out by Maman, he is nonetheless furious that Salim did not save Latika as well, when doing so involved simply holding more tightly onto her hand.

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