In 2008, Jamal Malik won 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire'. Why did he succeed?
In 2008, Jamal Malik won Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Why did he succeed? Was it because:
a) he cheated
b) he’s lucky
c) he’s a genius
d) it was ‘written’
When I first suggested to my wife seeing a film about a young Indian boy appearing on the Hindi version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, I had some convincing to do. The fact that it has been nominated for numerous Oscars helped, but in the end it was the promise of a complex, challenging and uplifting tale which got her through the cinema doors. And Slumdog Millionaire is definitely complex, challenging and uplifting.
The film tells the story of Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), a teenager from the slums of Mumbai who finds himself on the famous quiz show despite his impoverished and virtually uneducated background. Flashbacks reveal Jamal’s life from childhood to the present day, showing us his route to the hot seat, and also revealing a life marked by loss, pain and suffering. Despite staggering poverty, violence and ill-treatment in the slums, Jamal and his brother Salim (Madhur Mittal) manage to survive, even thrive, although their lives take quite different paths. While Salim follows a path of power and violence to become a top lieutenant to a local crime lord, Jamal seems driven by another force, eventually finding a low paying job serving tea to workers at an Indian call centre. But love for his childhood sweetheart Latika (Freida Pinto) is what brings Jamal to the TV show.
Throughout the film, questions arise as to how this unlikely hero found success on the show. The four options listed at the top of this article are examined – Millionaire’s producers think he is a cheat or incredibly lucky; the interrogating policemen suppose he must be a genius; while Jamal himself is convinced his fate “is written” - whatever happens must be his destiny and therefore he is content to throw himself on the mercies of this unknown fate. This conclusion interests me as a Christian, since this both agrees and disagrees with the way the Bible sees things. On one hand, the Bible maintains that everything “is written” by God, as Psalm 139 beautifully puts it, “...in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.” On the other hand, when we are honest with ourselves, our fate is not unknown. Revelation tells us that while we may not know the answer to the real million dollar question, “what happens when I die?” Those who trust in Jesus know that eternity in Heaven with the Lord awaits, and you can’t win that on any quiz show.