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Film / Slumdog Millionaire

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Police Inspector: Doctors... Lawyers... never get past 60 thousand rupees. He's won 10 million. What can a slumdog possibly know?
Jamal Malik: [quietly] The answers.

A 2008 film directed by Danny Boyle based on the novel Q & A by Vikas Swarup.

Jamal Malik is on the verge of winning 20 million rupees on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. There's just one problem: he's a "slumdog," working at a minimum wage job, and nobody can see how he knew any of the answers. As they go through each question, he shows how events in his childhood and life contributed to his knowing almost every single one.

Please note, that apart from the dance number at the end, this is not a Bollywood film. It's a Western movie made in Mumbai. It does, however, have several references to Indian culture and Bollywood movies—including songs that have been used in other movies, a credits sequence made to look like old-fashioned movie posters and a reference to legendary actor Amitabh Bachchan, though it only uses a total of two well-known Bollywood actors in the film.


Even though critically acclaimed internationally, over the next few years the movie attained a widespread Hatedom in India, with numerous Take Thats from other Indian movies; mostly because Danny Boyle managed to hit just about every single Bollywood cliche in it, while turning all the "Violent Mumbai" negative stereotypes Up to Eleven to create the film's dark and cynical atmosphere (not to mention starring a British actor in the lead role).


This film provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Prem says that he is a former winner. His actor Anil Kapoor was a guest on the real show and won 5 million Rupees.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Though there are a lot of things different from the book (including the main character's name - in the book it's Ram Mohammad Thomas), the film manages to condense most of it down and still be good.
    • It also drifts into Pragmatic Adaptation zone.
    • The book could not use the actual Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, but the film version could, due to it being made by the original producers of the series. (However, they had sold the rights to the franchise by the time the film was released.)
  • Adaptation Title Change: The movie is based on the novel Q & A. Like with many other things changed for the film, the title is completely different since the producers got the rights to use the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.
  • Aloof Big Brother: Salim.
  • Audience Murmurs: The studio audience responds with murmur to all of Jamal's decisions.
  • Award-Bait Song: "Dreams on Fire" is a by-the-book song of this kind... but the one that actually won awards, "Jai-Ho", might count.
  • Bait the Dog: The men who "recruit" the beggar children at first seem like nice guys (albeit certainly criminals); they're actually despicable villains.
    • The Millionaire host was jealous because like Jamal he was a slumdog who came to some success. And he would rather have the show be about him.
  • Batman Gambit: The quiz host attempts to pull one of these on Jamal and it backfires spectacularly. Which actually turns it into an accidental Secret Test of Character.
  • Because Destiny Says So: D. It is written .
  • Belly Dancer: Latika wears a midriff-revealing outfit and a lot of Jewelry when she is rented for the first time when Jamal finds her after being separated from her.
  • Big Bad: There are plenty of different horrible people who stand in Jamal's way but Maman and later Javed Khan are the ones who qualify for this being crime bosses.
  • Big Damn Kiss: The last scene before the credits.
  • Bilingual Bonus: There are a lot of curse words in the beginning the subtitles decided to leave out.
    • The Hindi song Ringa Ringa, which plays when Jamal and Salim find Latika in their teens is about a woman who was forced into sex by a sleezy guy, fitting as Latika was about to become a prostitute and have her virginity sold off.
  • Book Dumb: Jamal and Salim, literally due to poor schooling. They know the names of two out of the Three Musketeers, and can pick up enough history of the Taj Mahal to sound convincing, and run a small racket at age 13 or so; see Informed Flaw.
  • Cain and Abel: Jamal and Salim eventually.
  • Chekhov's Armory: Every single event in Jamal's life. Every single one.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Jamal and Latika.
  • Condensation Clue: The show host writes the letter B on the steamy bathroom mirror for Jamal to notice. It was supposed to be the answer for the next show question but as it turns out - the clue was wrong. Good thing Jamal didn't fall for it.
  • Con Man: Part of Jamal's youth is spent pretending to be a tour guide and making up the history as he goes along.
  • Dance Party Ending: A Bollywood dance sequence during the end credits. Even the kid versions of the leads join in.
  • Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!
  • Determinator: Jamal.
  • Dirty Coward: Maman immediately resorts to getting on his knees, begging, and opening his wallet when Salim gets the drop on him. Salim just shoots him.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Latika plays a prank on Salim, putting chillies on his privates as he sleeps. Salim, in revenge, abandons her to a life of slavery, sexual harassment, and abuse at the hands of an evil gangster.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Given the amount of time the film covers vs. the amount of time Jamal and Latika are together, plus the lengths Jamal is willing to go to find her, this trope fits. It's not entirely clear how long the kids spent together the first time, but it seems to have been a while. Given how things were left off (with her in the hands of the vicious slavers), it's perhaps not surprising that Jamal would be obsessed with rescuing her. Now, Jamal and Latika's romantic devotion developing over the course of a few hours in their second time together is a better fit.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: When Salim and Jamal are living near the Taj Mahal, the latter is at one point mistaken for a tour guide by a couple of German tourists. Jamal decides to roll with it when he learns that there are pretty good money in it. While Jamal has overheard bit and pieces of the historical factoids the professional tour guides tell about Taj Mahal on a regular basis, he cannot remember all of it, so he just fills out the missing pieces with ideas and concepts that are familiar to him, resulting in him grandstandingly telling the tourists that the Taj Mahal is in fact a five star hotel complete with elevators and a swimming pool and that Empress Mumtaz Mahal died in a road traffic accident. When the tourists points that there are several discrepancies between Jamal's story and their guidebook, Jamal quickly waves it off by claiming that their book was written by "a bunch of lazy, good-for-nothing, Indian beggars."
  • Establishing Character Moment: When we first meet Jamal, he's trying to catch a ball playing cricket. Salim is yelling at him to catch it, then Jamal fails from no fault of his own. Salim yells at him. They high five a few seconds later.
  • Eye Scream: The beggars get their eyes burned out to make more money.
  • The Fagin: Maman initially seems to be the nice version who takes in children to sing for money on the streets. But blinds them to make them look more sympathetic.
  • Famous Last Words:
    Salim Malik: God is great.
  • Fan Disservice: Jamal gets a Shirtless Scene...Hanging by his wrists and being tortured for cheating (when he's not).
  • Feigning Intelligence: The two brothers feign expertise on all sorts of stuff to get by (and learn what they didn't know in the process). Thing is, both are actually pretty smart, if unlettered.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Despite being attacked by a group of gangsters who obviously intend to disfigure her, Latika receives a single elegant slash across her face which heals cleanly, and actually accentuates her cheekbones. Logically, of course, no one would want an ugly prostitute. Concept art even shows the artist clearly trying to find the prettiest version of the scar.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Salim.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Latika.
  • Imagine Spot: When Jamal meets his brother again after a few years, he imagines rushing him off the roof and killing them both.
  • Informed Flaw: Jamal and to a lesser extent Salim have a lack of education and knowledge. Other characters, however, completely dismiss their clear street smarts, and Jamal's knowledge as a slumdog is lampshaded so many times, despite all evidence to the contrary, that it goes beyond Book Dumb into this.
  • Instant Sedation: Before having his eyes burned out, one of Maman's beggars is knocked out with chloroform. One second, he's screaming and struggling, and the next, he's out like a light.
  • Interrogation Flashback: Basically, after torturing him didn't work, the police decided to let the hero tell his story to explain how he knew the answers on the Millionaire show.
  • I Remember Because...: Essentially the entire plot of the movie.
  • Ironic Echo: When Maman is first torturing the children he says "Maman never forgets". Later, when he's grovelling for his life, Salim throws this back at him. Maman says that he can make an exception but Salim ignores him and blows his head off.
  • Ironic Juxtaposition: In the climax, Salim dies due to Redemption Equals Death in a bathtub full of money, while at the same time Jamal wins 20 million rupees. Metaphorically speaking, we even have a Birth/Death Juxtaposition at hand, since Jamal can be considered a new person at this point.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: When the police think Jamal cheated, they use Electric Torture on him to make him confess. Particularly disturbing is that they're so casual about it, you get the impression they do this all the time.note 
  • "Jeopardy!" Intelligence Test: The Who Wants to be a Millionaire game show, which shows that Jamal has a very, very good memory to know the answer to every question.
  • Jerkass: Salim was a total dick to Jamal when they were younger, like locking him in an outhouse to prevent him from seeing his favorite actor, and stealing Jamal's autograph of said actor and selling it. And that whole business of dooming Latika to prostitution.
    • The Millionaire host has signs of this. He happily mocks Jamal for being an assistant at a call center and calls him a "chaiwalah" (approximately it means tea maker but is used as a derogatory term here), all in the name of entertainment. He later starts to approach monster territory after he intentionally gives Jamal a wrong answer to try and slip him up, and then falsely accuses him of cheating and has him sent to be tortured, just because he wanted to be the center of attention.
  • Kick the Dog: Salim. Repeatedly.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Salim's Start of Darkness is killing Maman, the evil child slaver.
  • Last Stand: Salim in a bathtub filled with money. Two reasons; it gives him a chance to get the drop on whoever was coming in first(likely his boss) as they take a few seconds to try and figure out what's going on, and if he has to go out, he'd prefer to go out in a manner people are going to talk about for years.
  • Lip-Lock Sun-Block: The final kiss.
  • Mistaken for Special Guest: Jamal uses this to his advantage on several occasions.
  • Mood Dissonance: The feelings of joy and disgust at the same time when Jamal answers the second to last question (answer D) correctly and the show host is dancing around him while we know he actually tried to set Jamal up for failure.
  • Multilingual Song: The ending song "Jai Ho" is sung in Hindi, but features a verse in Spanish.
  • Necessary Fail: Good thing your life sucked so much, Jamal.
  • Neutral Female: Latika, especially when they're kids and Jamal and Salim are fighting.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: It takes long for Jamal's suffering to be overcome by the happiness promised by the previews and blurbs...
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Dev Patel as Jamal tries an Indian accent (Dev Patel is ethnically Indian but English) but often his English accent comes through.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted. Jamal searches the name "Latika" in the phone listings and gets over 26 000 results. Even when he searches "Salim K Malik" he gets fifteen results.
  • Operator from India: Jamal works at one of these places. The English cultural teaching is portrayed with some accuracy.
  • Ordered to Cheat: The host of the show attempts to gets Jamal out of the game by deliberately giving him the wrong answer on a mirror during his bathroom break. Suspicious of his motives and with only two possible answers left, Jamal chooses the other answer instead of the one given to him.
  • Orphanage of Fear: Oh yes.
  • Painting the Medium: The portrayals of the main characters get more and more realistic as Jamal gets older. This is because as he matures, he better understands what is going on instead of turning it into caricature.
  • Plot Tailored to the Party: The questions with Jamal's flashbacks. See Someday This May Come In Handy.
  • Porn Stache: Prem Kumar. It helps that the actor portraying him is famous for it within Bollywood.
  • Poverty Porn: From the left to the right and from the bottom to the top, the film has been accused of indulging in the worst kind of stereotypes, cliches and plot devices that come from this trope.
  • Race for Your Love: Latika's desperate dash to get to the phone in time, in a variation on the usual trope.
  • Radio Contest: How Jamal gets on the show.
  • Rags to Riches: Subverted since Jamal doesn't really care about winning the money, he just goes on the show in order to find Latika.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Salim, Jamal's brother, invokes this to make up for all the crap he put him through. In a bathtub full of money no less.
  • Red Light District: Jamal and Salim as teenagers visit one to find Latika.
  • Reverse Cerebus Syndrome: Opens with a Downer Beginning, has many dark moments (specially in flashbacks), but it all leads to a happy ending.
  • Revolvers Are for Amateurs: Salim starts his life of crime with a revolver.
  • Rule of Romantic: Why the movie's portrayal of Who Wants to be a Millionaire bears little to no resemblance to how the show actually works.
  • Say My Name: LATIKA!
  • She Is All Grown Up: Both Jamal and Salim have this reaction when they see Latika again as teens.
  • Shown Their Work: The movie star in the beginning who Jamal gets an autograph from is played by a double of the actual actor. Both the real actor and double sign with their left hand. The director mentions it in the commentary.
  • Sibling Triangle: Subverted in that it's made clear that Salim's feelings for Latika are merely lust and is just one of many obstacles for Jamal and Latika's love.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Sweet, kind, romantic Jamal and tough, controlling, Jerkass Salim.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Jamal doesn't seem to realize other females even exist.
  • Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: Salim, despite having more screen time than Latika. When Madhur Mittal, who plays the adult Salim, was asked about this he said the studio wanted to promote the film as a love story.
  • Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty: The slums are gritty, the quiz show is shiny.
  • Smarmy Host: The jerkass Millionaire host who tries to make Jamal lose.
  • Smug Snake: The quiz show host.
  • Someday This Will Come in Handy: Every. Single. Experience that Jamal has helps him answer the questions on the quiz show.
  • Street Urchin: During their late childhood to adolescence, Jamal and Salim are like this, conning tourists among other things.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Jamal and Latika.
  • Sudden Musical Ending
  • Took a Level in Badass: Salim keeps taking levels in badass throughout the entire movie.
  • Translation Convention: Even the kids at the slum speak English to each other.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: Jamal, Salim, and Latika.
  • "Ugly American" Stereotype: Exploited. Street kids Jamal and Salim make money at the Taj Mahal by preying on ignorant American tourists, posing as tour guides and declaring a bunch of made-up "trivia" that the visitors are too uninformed to know is wrong.
  • A Villain Named Khan: Javad Khan is one of the leaders of a criminal gang that recruits orphans.
  • Video Credits: All main actors are shown and named in the end credits.
  • Virgin Tension: When Jamal first tries to rescue Latika.
  • Wealthy Ever After: Jamal himself at the end.
  • Wants a Prize for Basic Decency: Salim expects gratitude from Latika for helping his brother save her from prostitution, even though he was responsible for her position in the first place.
  • When She Smiles: It's one of the earliest, most memorable shots in the film, and it's not given context until about two-thirds through.
  • A World Half Full: India is presented in such a fashion in this movie, quite unflinchingly. Although there are hints it is getting better.
    • "That...Used to be our slum. We used to live right there, man. Now, it's all business. India is at the center of the world now, bhai."


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