Young Jamal and Salim look down at their burning slum from a hillside.
Later, as rain pours down, the boys take shelter in an empty shipping container. They notice a girl of around their age has been following them—she stands alone outside the shelter.
Salim tells her to get lost, but Jamal allows her to come in. "She could be our third musketeer!" Jamal remarks. "We don't even know the name of the third bloody musketeer," Salim retorts.
Jamal invites the girl, Latika, in from the rain, introducing himself. He asks where her mother and father are… and receives no answer. He allows her to stay in the shelter with them, this moment marking the beginning of a bond that will transcend time, space, fame, and wealth.
Back in the studio, Jamal prepares for his next question: "The song "Darshan Do Ghanshyam" was written by which famous Indian poet?"
Flashing back once again, we see young Latika sifting through heaps of trash at a garbage dump. She watches as a yellow van appears.
Alarmed, she yells to Jamal and Salim, who are sleeping in a tent close by. They wake up only when a few men enter the tent, and pop open a couple sodas for the boys.
The three go with the men in their van, arriving at a compound teeming with kids playing and laughing.
To the youngsters, this place looks like paradise. Maman, the man who took them, must be very generous to help them, they think.
That night, Maman lines up the children and asks them to sing the song "Darshan Do Ghanshyam." Some, needless to say, do better than others.
While Salim is hardly blessed with a golden voice, Maman recognizes that he's a fighter.
We cut to the van surrounded by a number of children, including Jamal, Latika, and Salim, underneath an overpass. Salim is vocal, whipping the gaggle of kids into shape.
Their mission is to beg, sent forth by Maman and his crew to go out and earn as much money as possible. Latika is forced to take a baby—babies earn double, and crying babies earn triple.
From there, the children move out into the bustling Indian streets. We follow them as they beg around the city.
At night, with all the children asleep on the floor, Latika and Jamal prank Salim by putting the hot peppers under his sheets.
Waking up, in pain and horror, he runs to the shower to take care of these "chilies on his willy." Salim vows he'll get them back for this.
We cut to the same young boy we saw earlier once again singing "Darshan Do Ghanshyam" for Maman. "You're ready," Maman remarks. With that, the boy is chloroformed, and gruesomely blinded.
Salim, rattled, throws up. He's told by Maman to bring Jamal over. Salim freezes. "You want the life of a slumdog, or the life of a man," Maman tells the quivering Salim. "Your destiny is in your hands." Salim, of course, has no choice but to accept.
Elsewhere in the compound, Jamal and Latika fantasize about their futures. Salim watches the two crack jokes and dream big together.
With Salim coming to bring him to Maman, Jamal thinks he's on his way to prosperity. Salim knows otherwise.
Jamal is asked to sing "Darshan Do Ghanshyam" for Maman, but he asks for fifty rupees first. Latika watches from a hiding spot and laughs.
Salim's asked to grab the chloroform, but when the gravity of the situation hits, he makes the choice to throw the bottle into the face of one of Maman's goons.
The trio makes their escape, running through the trees, with Maman and his men in hot pursuit.
The two boys are able to make it onto a train, but Latika's unable to hold on, and Maman and his men grab her. Jamal watches helplessly as the train drives off into the distance.
Jamal says he has to go back for her, but Salim won't let him, explaining what Maman was planning on doing to the younger brother.
Back in the studio, Jamal gives the correct answer: "Surdas."