All of us navigate through life via the experience we have had - there is no other way. Despite our experience, there are things that are hard fact even though we have not met and known it as such. On rare exceptions we get a life-line, a moment of deus ex-machina, a moment of tangible grace.
It just so happens that the miraculous run of Jamal was due to the unlikely pairing of his life experience with the questions being asked by Prem, host of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. But it is more than this. When Jamal is asked the cricket question for 10 million rupees, Jamal does not know the answer. But he does know the character of human beings. Especially the character of the Millionaire host Prem, a slumdog made good.
Jamal uses his life-line, bettering his chances to 50/50, and in a move of savvy resilience refuses the hand of the slumdog, who with seeming mercy offers the answer B. to Jamal in the bathroom at a station break. Jamal knows that powerful slumdogs tend to eat their own, and to the astonishment of Prem, picks D. In so doing elicits the anger of Prem who accuses Jamal of cheating, but is more so suffering from jealousy of being one-uped. Jamal is taken off the set and tortured by thugs before being released to play. For the nation of India is waiting on their slumdog hero, and will certainly not tolerate the hero gone missing.
The 20 million rupee question comes from The Three Musketeers, a chapter in the life of Jamal. Who is the third musketeer? This is an answer Jamal would have known had he not been skipping school as a boy. Jamal's phone-a-friend life-line fails. He knows Porthos and Athos, two of the musketeers, and two of the answers, names that he and his brother Salim gave to themselves as boys. Again it is a 50/50 chance.
One evening as little orphan boys, Jamal and Salim shelter in a train car from the driving rain. Jamal spots a forlorn girl and intends to invite her to the box-car at the protest of Salim. Jamal counters that she is their third musketeer as they seek to survive in the squalor of Mumbai's Garib Nagar (poor district).
Aramis, the third musketeer, is followed by luck and climbs to power, dependent on gold from wealthhy mistresses to survive. And yet, Aramis holds very firmly to the sacred concept of friendship. Latika is Aramis. Does Jamal know this? Perhaps Jamal knew the story better than we know. Perhaps he knew d'Artagnan was not one of the musketeers and therefore could not be the answer. Perhaps he knew Latika's story was not d'Artagnan's story. Perhaps it was a process of elimination. Perhaps it was written.