Study Guide

Slumdog Millionaire Hero's Journey

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Hero's Journey

Ever notice that every blockbuster movie has the same fundamental pieces? A hero, a journey, some conflicts to muck it all up, a reward, and the hero returning home and everybody applauding his or her swag? Yeah, scholar Joseph Campbell noticed first—in 1949. He wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he outlined the 17 stages of a mythological hero's journey.

About half a century later, Christopher Vogler condensed those stages down to 12 in an attempt to show Hollywood how every story ever written should—and, uh, does—follow Campbell's pattern. We're working with those 12 stages, so take a look. (P.S. Want more? We have an entire Online Course devoted to the hero's journey.)

Ordinary World

For many of us in the audience, there is little that's "ordinary" about Jamal's world. Growing up in the hectic, teeming slums of Mumbai, however, our hero certainly has his routine—even if that routine consists mainly of skipping school to play cricket on the airport tarmac.

Call To Adventure

Jamal's life is turned upside down with the death of his mother in the Bombay riots, as he's forced onto the open road with his older brother Salim. Shortly thereafter, they find Latika.

Refusal Of The Call

When Maman captures Jamal, Salim, and Latika, things look dire. But Jamal and Salim are able to escape—just without Latika. Jamal has to make the difficult decision to forget about Latika. However, in order to survive, he has to press on.

Meeting The Mentor

There's no specific guide or mentoring figure who appears to help Jamal in his journey; instead all Jamal has is Salim, as the brothers learn to scrape, scrounge, and hustle their way to survival.

Crossing The Threshold

The course of Jamal's life is forever changed when he makes the decision to find Latika. With Salim's help, he is successful, as they defeat the first threshold guardian, Maman. However, the joyous reunion with Latika doesn't last long.

Tests, Allies, Enemies

Salim emerges as an enemy, threatening Jamal and absconding with Latika. Jamal's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire questions in the present day timeline frame these past events, as he learns each answer through a different event in his quest to find Latika.

Approach To The Inmost Cave

After several years, Jamal is able to locate Salim once again, which means he's one step closer to finding Latika. Meanwhile in the present, Jamal closes in on the million-dollar question.


In confronting Salim, Jamal finally faces the primary antagonist to our hero's pursuit: the brother who betrayed him.

Reward (Seizing The Sword)

From the information Salim gives, Jamal is able to deduce that Latika is being held in Javed's compound. Jamal successfully infiltrates this fortress and finds her. Though she urges him to leave, for his safety as much as her own, he tells her that he will wait for her every day at the train station until she escapes.

The Road Back

Much to Jamal's surprise, Latika arrives at the station, ready to leave with him. But Salim and a number of Javed's henchmen appear at the last moment to take her away, despite Latika's frantic attempts to escape. Jamal, with nowhere else to turn, decides to become a contestant on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire as a last-ditch effort to find Latika.


Jamal, against all odds, fights his way to the million-dollar question, as our past and present storylines converge. After speaking with Latika on the "phone a friend" lifeline, and learning that she is safe, Jamal answers the final question successfully, winning the show.

Return With The Elixir

Jamal and Latika are at long last reunited; "Jai Ho" plays as they dance together in the train station in classic Bollywood style, an ecstatic expression of their love.

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