Accused of cheating and desperate to prove his innocence, an eighteen-year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai reflects back on his tumultuous life while competing to win 20 million rupees on India's 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire' in Danny Boyle's inspirational drama. Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) may not have a penny to his name, but that could all change in a matter of hours. He's one question away from taking the top prize on India's most popular television game show, but as with everything else in Jamal's life, it isn't going to be easy.
Arrested by police under suspicion of cheating, Jamal is interrogated by the authorities. The police simply can't believe that a common "slumdog" could possibly possess the knowledge to get this far in the game, and in order to convince them of how he gained such knowledge, Jamal begins reflecting back on his childhood. As young boys, Jamal and his older brother, Salim, lived in squalor, and lost their mother in a mob attack on Muslims. Subsequently forced to rely on their own wits to survive, the desperate siblings fell back on petty crime, eventually befriending adorable yet feisty young Latika as they sought out food and shelter on the unforgiving streets of Mumbai.
Though life on the streets was never easy, Jamal's experiences ultimately instilled in him the knowledge he needed to answer the tough questions posed to him on 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire'. And though Jamal makes a convincing case for himself, one question still remains: why would a young man with no apparent desire for wealth or fame be so determined to win big on a national game show? Of course, it won't be long until everyone finds out the answer to this burning question, because as Jamal sits down to find out whether he will be rich beyond his wildest dreams, 60 million viewers remain transfixed to their televisions eager to see if he'll correctly answer the final question.