Characters in "Slumdog Millionaire"

By Robert Russell
Dev Patel played Jamal Malik in

"Slumdog Millionaire" was a surprise hit at the box office in 2008, winning a number of awards including the Best Picture Academy award. As a story about love and survival, the movie featured three main characters -- Jamal and Salim Malik and Latika -- with a supporting cast of colorful characters and rogues. Set in the Juhu slums of India, it has a theme similar to a Charles Dickens tale: three young orphans struggle to survive in the harsh conditions of the shantytowns. If you have not seen the movie, be prepared for spoiler alerts.

Jamal Malik

As the younger of two brothers who grow up as orphans in the slums of India, Jamal becomes the hero of "Slumdog Millionaire." The movie begins with Jamal as an 18-year-old contestant on India’s version of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" The game show host assumes the slum kid does not have the educational background to answer the questions and has him arrested for cheating. As the story unfolds, Jamal’s life story is told in a series of flashbacks related to the questions asked during the program. Jamal’s motivation for appearing on TV is to reunite with his lost love Latika, who watches the show. The underlying characteristic of Jamal’s life is his integrity and positive spirit; despite the violence and betrayals he experiences, Jamal remains compassionate, loyal and courageous.

Salim Malik

As Jamal's older brother, Salim takes care of Jamal after their mother dies, but the two brothers take opposing paths when they mature. Jamal triumphs over the harsh street life they are forced to endure, but Salim turns to a life of crime. He works for the local crime boss Javed, who eventually becomes Latika’s husband. Salim becomes hard and cruel -- eventually turning against Jamal -- as he was always jealous of Jamal and Latika’s relationship, wanting her for himself.

Freida Selena Pinto as Latika

Latika -- a quiet and mild-mannered girl -- is Jamal’s true love. Like the two brothers, she is an orphan trying to survive in the slums. When Jamal and Salim evade capture from local orphanage owner and gangster Maman by jumping atop a train, Latika is left behind and is captured by Maman’s gang. Later, the brothers manage to find and rescue her; Salim shoots and kills Maman. Salim, who secretly wants Latika, fights with Jamal over her, but Latika convinces Jamal to leave for his own safety. After that, Salim becomes a high-ranking lieutenant for the local crime lord, Javed, who eventually takes Latika as his wife.

Supporting Cast of Characters

The four supporting characters in the movie are the gangster Maman, show host Prem Kumar, crime lord Javed, the unnamed Police Inspector and various assorted rogues. As a dubious leader of an orphanage, Maman teaches street kids how to become beggars and thieves after blinding them to make them profitable beggars. Jamal and Salim escape Maman, after learning of this, but Latika does not. Show host Prem Kumar becomes suspicious when Jamal experiences an incredible winning streak on the TV show and has him arrested. The Police Inspector questions Jamal to determine if he is cheating on the game show.

About the Author

Robert Russell began writing online professionally in 2010. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and is currently working on a book project exploring the relationship between art, entertainment and culture. He is the guitar player for the nationally touring cajun/zydeco band Creole Stomp. Russell travels with his laptop and writes many of his articles on the road between gigs.