Jamal Malik

Jamal Malik

    Slumdog Millionaire
Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Character Analysis

(Avoiding Spoilers)

Grew Up… in the Juhu slum of Mumbai, playing cricket instead of going to school. Jamal’s mother was murdered in the 1992 anti-Muslim Bombay Riots, orphaning Jamal and his older brother Salim.

Living… on the road ever since his mother died. After escaping from a child trafficker named Maman, Jamal and Salim traveled around India by train top for years, hustling to put food in their bellies – pickpocketing, washing dishes, stealing shoes, and scamming tourists at the Taj Mahal. 

Profession… working at a call center for Excel 5 Mobile Phones in Juhu, Mumbai. He is a tea server, one level below telemarketer, or “phone basher.”

Interests… Amitabh Bachchan, star of the 1973 Bollywood film Zanjeer. Growing up, Jamal carried a picture of him in his pocket and would do almost anything if it meant getting near him.

Relationship Status… devoted to Latika. Ever since he invited her to come out of the pouring rain and sleep in the boxcar with him and Salim when they were young kids, he has been in love. As he said to her, “You, me, Salim; The Three Musketeers!” Even though Latika and Jamal have been separated for a long time, he has never forgotten her. He has spent years train hopping around the country with Salim: a quest for survival, a quest to find Latika. And now he has a new plan to find her. Hoping that Latika will watch, Jamal goes on the TV show  “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”

Challenge… becoming a millionaire. After Jamal comes within one correct answer of winning 20 million rupees, he is apprehended and tortured by police. “Doctors, lawyers never get beyond 60k rupees,” muses the detective assigned to his case. ”He’s won 10 million. What the hell can a slumdog possibly know?” Jamal must demonstrate to the detective that he wasn’t cheating if he wants a chance at the final question and the 20 million rupee prize.

Personality… understated, sensible, and polite. Jamal has little in common with his brother, Salim. Salim was always a devious bastard, a natural leader who showed from a young age that he wasn’t afraid to harm others. The one trait they have in common is toughness – that’s the only way to survive.


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