How “Slumdog Millionaire” got its name

January 22, 2009

If you are wondering why “Slumdog” and why not “Slumboy”, there’s a story behind how Danny Boyle’s Golden Globe-winning film got its unusual name.

Turns out screenwriter Simon Beaufoy was wandering around the slums of Mumbai researching the film, when he saw cats and dogs apparently asleep in the alleys.

But they weren’t asleep.

Beaufoy, speaking at a news conference in New Delhi, said he was intrigued to notice their eyes — moving, discerning, watching.

“I thought it was a fantastic metaphor – of somebody who’s apparently not worth anything, is actually looking, eyeing everything and knowing everything — just like the boy in the gameshow knows everything.”

“Slumdog Millionaire” is the rags-to-riches story of a boy from a Mumbai slum competing on the Indian version of the television gameshow “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”.

“I just made up the word really. There was absolutely no sense I wanted to insult anybody,” Beaufoy said. “I just liked the idea.”

The answer didn’t satisfy a journalist, who said it felt like Boyle’s film was referring to Indians as canines.

But co-director Loveleen Tandan came to the rescue, noting that the protagonist is referred to as ‘slumdog’ in the film.

“It’s actually the English translation of the way we have spoken and our movies have said that over the years referring to a man from the streets.”

In “Slumdog Millionaire”, a police inspector (played by Irrfan Khan) calls protagonist Jamal a ‘slumdog’.

Is “Slumdog Millionaire” a suitable title for the film?


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this movie is awesome. but you know India is really shown in a bad light. i don’t agree with this sort of show biz. but the child artist who acted were the focus of this movie

Posted by JoyLynford | Report as abusive

I hope the feel good film will get Oscar nomination.

Posted by reddy | Report as abusive

I feel the movie still demonstrates reality.. If you have visited the slums of Bombay and other metros.. The sequences seem as close to reality as they could be..

Talk of the other releases in recent times in Bollywood, Gajhini, Singh is King, etc.. A lot of things seem ficticious there too..

Posted by Rahul | Report as abusive

its not the poor who need help but the arrogant rich of India they should be called Slum Pigs Millionaires..I lived in India for two years and one day near Pune I saw a near naked girl pick up a brown scrap of Orange peel..then ate it..a Fruit Baba looked at me from the top of his mountain of fresh fruit and shrugged and said This is India Bubba…..what can we do….the reality is that there are millions of children like this in India..and this film is the tip of a very large poverty ice-berg.

Posted by BERNIE777 | Report as abusive

It is a great movie. Many people are thinking that India is shown in bad light. What is wrong, to see our real face in a mirror? As it is an imported mirror (foreign director). Is there anybody who can solve such problems (street beggar, slum, etc.) in India?
In independent India a police inspector calls an Indian ‘Slumdog’ in this movie. Are we all Indians still living in a British colony?

Posted by A.Y. | Report as abusive

I think the title “Slumdog Millionaire” completely captures the essence of both the film and the main character. While the poverty of Mumbai comes across as absolutely brutal, the protagonist stays true to himself and rises above his tragic beginnings. Many cities across the globe have come across in a bad light in one or more movies. Mumbai has come a long way into the 21st century but it clearly has a long way still to go. Denying this reality and whitewashing it with a Bollywood glow won’t do anything to make the world a better place for the average Mumbai resident.

As far as the “referring to Indians as canines” comment by a journalist, that’s just silly. Slumdog is a term that could be used in any culture. It’s a commentary on the way that we think about people who come from poverty. While the stigma may still be stronger in India than in some other cultures, all cultures denigrate the poor and downtrodden. There is always the sense that somehow having been born rich inherently grants a person superior qualities. A rich person need do nothing else of value in their life and they will still be admired merely for their ability to spend money and catch the eye of the papparazzi. Those who are born into poverty are seen as lazy, stupid, morally deficient, and somehow deserving of the destiny that they have inherited through no fault of their own. The name “slumdog” accurately reflects all of our prejudice toward the poor, whether in America or the UK or in India or anywhere else.

Posted by CindyPsych | Report as abusive

Movies are about entertainment and this one sure hit the spot. The movie was filmed in real locations and nothing about the movie seemed fake.

I do not understand why some in India are so scared to face the truth of poverty and slums. Wake up! it is real!

Posted by Prasad | Report as abusive

I’ll certainly goin to watch this movie. In my view, showing the truth (an that in a filmy way) is good. In truth how many of us actially take the slums and the people in account. We all talk a lot, but by the end of the day; the slum remains as it is. A movie might be able to bring some sort of joy to their faces, at least for a minute.

Posted by shushek | Report as abusive

My roommate and I were having the exact same debate! As a Mumbaikar, I have never heard the word slumdog used in conversation and found it very rude and quite insulting.

We came to the conclusion that the movie was produced in England and released in USA, and the word slumdog probably was intended for a western audience. I wonder how the Indian audiences will react to it when the movie *finally* comes out in India tomorrow.

Posted by Nidhi M | Report as abusive

I am no one to question a director for showing India in bad light (if at all…). Be it MF Hussain, Boyle or Taslima, everyone has the right of expression and it’s inappropriate to attack a director/writer/painter for showing a biased version of anything (You never realise that your thought too is biased). Actually, the creator has complete freedom to choose perspective for his creation.

But, I wont tell that Slumdog is a great movie (yeah, its a good movie). The story is mediocre and there is nothing new or commendable about the narration. But I must agree that most of the shots are visually rich and the director and his crew must have taken a lot of pain to get the slum shots right. The treatment is also good. Music by AR Rahman is one of the highlights of the movie (another highlight is the toilet scene in the slum). All in all a good movie which enjoys undeserving hype (be it +ve or -ve).

Posted by Sukhesh | Report as abusive

Yes…slumdog is not a new word..haven’t these naysayers heard of it before? darkhorse, underdog, slumdog…many more such words exist which do not come to the mind right away.

People love creating a ruckus for just about nothing.

Posted by B G Surong | Report as abusive

This movie just got nominated for Oscars (I think 10 nominations, second only to “Curious case of Benjamin Button”‘s 13 nominations).
Good movie still it hurts to see that part of India which we all are so proud to hide, yet its the first thing you see after landing in Mumbai. Nothing wrong in showing what is, as-is. Those slums are an integral part of India, like it or not. Hopefully all the economic boom wave that India has been riding so far, helps to reduce our poverty and slumdogs becomes a thing of past ….

Posted by AsG | Report as abusive

The movie has been well directed , enacted and has been worth the applause in terms of acting and cinema as every person associated seems to have given their best . But as a symbol to our image I believe this movie should be seen as an eye opener for how much a person needs to struggle to reach the top . As the movie says , “I may know whats printed on a Dollar bill by chance but the Indian Rupee notes Gandhi doesn’t seem familiar”.We need to work towards knowing our own country better than following others footpath and being overconfident .

Posted by Manisha | Report as abusive

[…] ever. We’re not the only ones, DNA tweeted about the names, and posted a link to a Reuters post on where the word “slumdog” came from (the comments section is especially interesting). […]

Posted by Slumdog Millionaire – What Bloggers are Saying « SOCIAL MEDIA + INDIA | Report as abusive

The movie is really good ,the music of AR rehman is wonderful…worth watching but i dont like the name SLUMDOG…which is somehow hurting us like indians

Posted by sanjay chandrasekar | Report as abusive

Why the conterversy over the name of a movie? Don’t you people have anything better to do? Oh and by the way, wake up and smell the crap in the air. The slums in India are like that, begger kids do come up to cars like that, girls are abused and sold and many of the other things portrayed in the film are very accurate. Why do we have such an over inflated sense of self as a nation? We still have a lot of in equality. We have students protesting against reservation, when they don’t even understand why reservation is still relevant and important to the under privillaged in the nation. Just because you are online does not mean that everyone else is. I think that name is very appropriate.

Posted by Mohsin | Report as abusive

to any one who says that india is shown in bad light, i have two questions. 1]have you not seen kamal hassan’s movie on bombay slum? 2]if you are offended about the slum scenes, what, if any, have you personally done for the upliftment of slum-dwellers?

Posted by balu | Report as abusive

well i don’t think the title anyway refers to Indians in common.
it refers to only the story of a guy who is from the slum and is apparently an Indian.
ARRs music score was ok,not too amused with that when compared to his earlier works!

Posted by j.sowmya | Report as abusive

First, the movie was really good and I recommend it to anyone and everyone.

Second to all the people who say this portrays India in a bad way.

The truth is the truth, and sometimes the truth hurts. This is the ‘real’ India, where 80% of the country work hard to make a living. Yes, India has progressed a long way, but progression has still not reached the majority of the popilation. I don’t care about Anil Ambani or Tatas having all the money in the world. What about the 750 million who live in the villages?

The problem is that we are hiding away from the facts and trying to show everyone we are a superpower. In order to solve the poverty issue we have to first realise it and indetify it, not hide from it. Then only we can move ahead to solve it.

Posted by Aaron | Report as abusive

Boyle has really done a good job with this movie. While the movie deals with the gory details of the underbelly of Mumbai, it doesnt really leave you with a sick feeling. The story feels like a commentary and at the end you just feel good about the whole movie. Very well done I must say.

The music score by Rehman is amazing, the actors who played junior Jamal and Salim were the real stars. They were simply too good.

I thought Freida Pinto was overhyped. I think she had just 15 mins of screen presence in the whole movie.

Posted by Mumbai | Report as abusive

Great Movie!!

Of course it has made India in Bad light, But good thing is we need to understand that there are many such children doing such little business to take care of their livelihood.

1)First, have to advertise his product
2)identify a prospective customers
3)get an appointment
4)compete with his (BIG)competitors
and so many phases of marketing world…to get an Order.

Interesting thing is that he has to complete all the phases of marketing and get an Order in between very short span of time. What a talent the child has ???

We have heard about many big business men, skilled persons, and very great personalities, the history says many of them started their career in a very simple way. They don’t have any training business schools or colleges or technology providers initially. But in case if they undergone such training in the beginning what would be our countries position now??

Let us help one child per head and change this BAD LIGHT of INDIA. Instead of criticizing this film.


Posted by JaiGanesh | Report as abusive

The name of the movie doesn’t reflect well how majority of the Indian people treat slum people.

Posted by Murugan | Report as abusive

Danny boyle’s job is to portray the truth in India ( and win the oscars if possible). Solving the problems is not his job, but the job of government of India and Indian citizens. So dont blame Danny Boyle for your problems.

Posted by raju | Report as abusive

This movie is spot-on, when it tries to narrates the real challenges faced by slum-dwellers in Mumbai at large. They are confronted with all kinds of challenges during their upbringing – the incomplete schooling, communal rioters, lack of parenting, lack of proper shelter, cruelity and insensitivity of the police, the mafias, the prostitution rackets. They are equally talented given an opportunity. You got to live this life to know what it is to be a slumdog. Gr8 job Danny, you deserve all the awards – 5 star!!!

Posted by Pradeep Engineer | Report as abusive

Danny Boyle did a terrific job in directing Slumdog Millionaire. Its sad to see such criticizium is being passed for portraying the truth in India. Had Danny Boyle showed the slums in the opposite he would have been criticized for buttering it up too. One is left to ask, had an Indian director directed the film, would such criticizium be passed?

Posted by Seema | Report as abusive

If the movie was titled “SlumBoy Millionaire” I doubt it would have received the awards nor the kind of response from western audiences.
Would Danny Boyle do a movie and get awards about homeless in America/UK titled “Homeless Pigs in America” or “Homeless Rags in Hyde Park, London?

Posted by Cyril | Report as abusive

I have seen this movie. and I had seen the slums in mumbai also. I believe there is no other name which will suit to this movie. If it depicts something bad about india . its not danny boyle’s problem . Indians, Its your problem. Danny had the courage to pciture it where you didn’t had that.
— Basheer

Posted by Basheer | Report as abusive

Metaphor are often used in western countries.. I think the title Slumdog has given a big meaning to the success of the film. Because it also counts to the slums globaly. This is the reason this film got so huge response.

The word slumdog alone attracted many viewers..This is Marketing

Great work Danny and crew. Wish you all much more success in future.

Posted by Preety | Report as abusive

I saw an interview of Danny Boyle and he said the slumdog is referrring to a slum boy who is an underdog. This makes better sense to me.

Posted by Preeti | Report as abusive

very good……

Posted by wow | Report as abusive