Study Guide

Slumdog Millionaire Fate and Free Will

Fate and Free Will

[On-screen text: Jamal Malik is one question away from winning 20 million rupees. How did he do it?

A. He cheated
B. He's lucky
C. He's a genius
D. It is written]

From this text, one of the first things we see on screen in the film, the relationship between fate and free will is established. Has Jamal defied the odds and clawed his way to the million-dollar question through his own choices? Or are there larger forces at work, as implied by answer D? Perhaps it's a little bit of both.

JAMAL: The answers. I knew the answers.

Slumdog Millionaire takes us on a journey to discover just how Jamal, however improbably, knew these answers.

JAMAL: She could be our third musketeer!

SALIM: We don't even know the name of the third bloody musketeer.

The image of Jamal and Salim as Athos and Porthos, two of the three musketeers, appears frequently in the early stages of the film. Latika soon joins their crew as the third musketeer, whose name they never learned—an ironic twist that will reemerge at a pivotal moment at the climax.

LATIKA: You came back for me.

JAMAL: Of course.

LATIKA: I thought you'd forgotten.

JAMAL: I'd never forget. Not for one moment. I knew I'd find you in the end. It's our destiny.

From this young age, Jamal knows in his heart that it his destiny to be with Latika. He never forgets about her, doing everything in his power to find his loved one, even after their repeated separations.

PREM: Do the right thing in approximately three minutes, and you will be as famous as me. And as rich as me. Almost.

Though it is written, literally, in steam on the bathroom mirror, Jamal knows full well that Prem has fed him the wrong answer. Perhaps Prem's intervention here is fate, seeing as Prem inadvertently gave Jamal the answer to a question he otherwise might have missed.

PREM: Latika, what do you think?

LATIKA: I don't know. I've never known.

Here the imagery of the three musketeers is brought back in the million-dollar question. Yet in an ironic twist, Jamal, nor Latika, ever learned the name of Latika's third musketeer.

JAMAL: A.

PREM: A, because?

JAMAL: Just because.

Jamal is completely unfazed by the fact that he doesn't know this answer, confidently guessing choice A. Perhaps in choosing this answer, however, Jamal trusting destiny—if he's supposed to win the money, he will win, and if he's supposed to lose, he will lose. "Maybe it is written, no?" he tells Prem before taking on the question. Apparently then he was supposed to win, because he chose right.

JAMAL: This is our destiny.

LATIKA: Kiss me.

[On-screen text: D. It is written]

So the ending to the film is a little sentimental. But as the answer to the multiple choice question from the beginning appears on screen, it becomes clear that Jamal and Latika have finally realized their destiny.