The Story of Slumdog Millionaire

Most of us are familiar with the story of an Indian youth from the slums of Mumbai whose past circumstances, luck and willpower helped him rise to fortune: Slumdog Millionaire is a movie based on the novel by Indian author Vikas Swarup, and recounts the story of Jamal, an eighteen-year old who wins the Indian version of the popular game show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

The story goes that just before the final ₹20 million question, Jamal is held by the police and tortured because he is suspected of cheating during the show. The youth recounts the hardships he went through after losing his mother and meeting Latika, a girl from his slum. Together with his brother Salim, Jamal and Latika end up running away from the gangster Mamam, who trains children to become beggars or prostitutes, blinding some of them in order to make their begging tactics more effective. Unfortunately, as they try to run away, they lose Latika, and manage to rescue her only years later - however, Salim himself becomes involved in criminality, and wants Latika for his own, forcing Jamal to leave them alone. Knowing that Latika regularly watches the game show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Jamal decides to participate.

Following the interrogation, the police allow Jamal to continue to participate in the show, and in the last episode, he uses the “Phone-A-Friend” lifeline to call Latika, who assures him that she is safe. The story ends well for Jamal, who wins the grand prize and ultimately reunites with his childhood sweetheart on the train station platform. 

Themes behind Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire addresses a variety of themes, one of them being how knowledge is better gained through experience. Jamal learns the answers to some of the show’s questions thanks to the hardships he went through. There are also ethical themes, as highlighted by the fact that the two brothers adopt two very different sets of values - Jamal is driven by love and fidelity, whereas Salim seeks power and money. 

But one of the most powerful themes of the book and movie relates to how difficult it is for a young person of a low social status in India to rise to fame and fortune. In Jamal, this happens thanks to both his willpower as well as a series of lucky circumstances. In a way, it gives some hope to all those young people in India who aspire to something greater, while making it clear that nothing comes easy in life. There are many hints that it is Jamal’s destiny to participate and win the Game Show, but at the same time, his journey is still full of obstacles. 

Of course, the theme of luck and fate is also prevalent, as Jamal guesses the final answer in the game show even though he did not know it. Luck and gambling have always been a crucial component of Indian culture, as reflected now in the growing number of online gambling sites in India. In fact, one can also play live game shows at Indian online casinos for a chance to win big! There is nothing wrong in daring to dream, but what Slumdog Millionaire shows us is that everything comes at a price!

31 May 2020