Later that evening, Jamal—still jubilant and still filthy—is scrubbed down by his mother, while Salim quietly wanders off. He winds up selling the autograph for a few rupees, in a scene that is pays homage to classic Italian Film Cinema Paradiso.
"He offered a good price, so I sold it!" a vindictive Salim reveals to his little brother. Jamal can only cry out his frustrations.
We snap back to older Jamal in the police station, watching the tape from the day before. Jamal answers the question correctly, as the audience applauds. "You don't have to be a genius," Jamal mutters. "I knew it was Amitabh Bachchan," the Constable echoes. "Like I said, you don't have to be a genius," Jamal jokes at the Constable's expense.
On the tape, the host moves on to the next question: "A picture of three lions is seen in the national emblem of India. What is written underneath it?"
"My five-year-old daughter could answer this question," the inspector muses. "But you couldn't." Jamal explains that given his upbringing in the slums, he has an entirely different set of knowledge—like the going price of pani puri (which is a delicious Indian snack), or who recently stole a specific police officer's bicycle outside one of the stations—than the middle or upper class residents of Mumbai. The inspector's amused.
Back in the studio, we are on to the next question. "Religion. Interesting," Prem remarks, before continuing. "In depictions of God Rama, he is famously holding what in his right hand?"
We get another flashback. Jamal and Salim are young boys once again, splashing about in the river. Their mother quietly washes clothes nearby.
This carefree atmosphere quickly turns into one of horror, however, as armed Hindu rioters come sweeping through the slum in pursuit of any and all Muslims.
This is one of the Bombay Riots of 1992 and 1993. (Source)
Salim and Jamal are able to escape as the violence unfurls around them, darting through the melee. Their mother isn't so lucky.
Danny Boyle's direction here is intense and chaotic, utilizing jagged handheld camera shots and slow motion sequences, coupled with A.R. Rahman's ominous, pounding soundtrack.
In a surreal moment, the two boys round a corner to see a young child painted in blue like the Hindu god Rama. After a moment of horror, they continue fleeing.
As the slum literally goes up in flames, the police do nothing.
We pan back to present-day Jamal in the police station. "I wake up every morning wishing I didn't know the answer to that question."
In a daze, Jamal answers confidently, and correctly, "Bow and arrow."
The show moves to a commercial break. "You got lucky," Prem whispers to Jamal. "If I were you, I'd take the money and run. You're not going to get the next one."