The protagonist of the movie, Jamal, is an 18-year old chaiwala (tea-preparer) who decides to enter the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? contest, all in order to get closer to finding his beloved, Latika. His answers for each question on the gameshow are mysteriously connected to his life experiences. On the eve of his final victory, he is tortured and questioned by the police to investigate whether he is cheating in some way. They watch the entire show from the previous night, interrogating him about how he knows the answers, and he takes them through his biography. He grew up in a slum, where his mother was killed in the Bombay riots, after which point he was brought into a gangster's begging ring with his brother Salim and a friend, Latika. After escaping from this life, he has made his way in the city, cut off from everyone he knows and working in a call center. Jamal has a quiet confidence and a sense of his own destiny, and this calm faith is what leads him to victory ultimately.
The love interest of Jamal, Latika is a young girl, who was sold into prostitution at a young age from the begging ring. She has been abused and neglected for most of her life, and only her friendship with Jamal has kept her going. Eventually, she is trapped by the crime boss, Javed, and becomes cynical about her fate as his live-in prostitute. In spite of all the abuse she suffers, she maintains a pure heart and a love for Jamal.
The brother of Jamal. He is extremely self-serving and desperate to attain power and wealth, regardless of who he has to sell out—including his own brother. While Jamal resists the life of a gangster, the easiest way to self-improve from slumdog status, Salim embraces it. At a young age, he picks up a revolver and kills Maman, a gangster, and from this moment on, he becomes a gangster himself. Salim and Jamal have a complicated relationship, and Salim betrays him at various moments. However, he atones for his errors at the end by sacrificing himself to free Latika.
A crime boss, who uses orphaned children as beggars to turn a profit. He is cruel and power-hungry, blinding and abusing children to make them more appealing for charity. He is killed by Salim.
The rival crime boss to Maman. He, too, values only power, money, and loyalty. Salim kills Maman and then goes to Javed to pledge his allegiance, moving up in his ranks and eliminating Maman as a competitor. He too is killed by Salim at the end.
The gameshow host. He is antagonistic and sly and attempts to sabotage Jamal, out of personal resentment. He is self-serving and values being the only person who was able to make it out of the slums—hence his reason for wanting to prevent Jamal from winning the show.
Slumdog Millionaire Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Slumdog Millionaire is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.