India: The Real Slumdog Millionaire



The top prize on the Indian version of the TV game show franchise “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” was won for the first time this week, by an office worker who was so poor he could not even afford a television set to watch the show at home. Sushil Kumar won the $1 million this week and since then comparisons to the 2008 Oscar winning film, Slumdog Millionaire, have not stopped coming. Just like the film’s fictional protagonist Jamal, the 27 year old office worker watched the television show as an escapist form of entertainment from his life of poverty.


The episode featuring Mr Kumar – and hosted by Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan – will air next week. The prize Mr Kumar won in the episode is worth around $725,000 US dollars after tax. Mr Kumar, who had to watch the show at a neighbour’s house because his family could not afford a television set, has simple plans for what he intends to do with the money. He has said he intends to repair his house, fulfil some basic needs for him and his family and then move to Delhi where he intends to study and take the civil service exams.

Mr Kumar currently works for a government office as a computer operator where he earns around $120 a month. The per capita income for India is a paltry $1,265, demonstrating just how impressive the size of the prize he won is in the country.


While Mr Kumar has said people are contacting him day and night with suggestions of how to use the money, he can only think about achieving his dream of passing the civil service exams. Without the money he says he would have been an old man before he was able to sort out his life.

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