Saturday, 29 October 2011

Real-life Slumdog Millionaire scoops $1m prize

A poor government clerk from a remote and poverty-stricken region of northern India was partying with film stars last night after becoming the first person to win 50 million rupees, worth more than $1m, on an Indian gameshow.
In an astonishing real-life version of the plot of the 2008 Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire, whose impoverished hero from a tough neighbourhood of the Indian commercial capital Mumbai wins the biggest prize on a TV quiz show, 27-year-old Sushil Kumar answered a final question correctly to take the jackpot of the massively popular local edition of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
Kumar, who has a master’s degree in psychology from a local college, wept when the Indian movie legend Amitabh Bachchan, the show’s host, handed him a cheque for 50 million rupees after the contestant gave all the right answers in the show’s final round.

On his blog Bachchan described ‘‘the tension as each question was meticulously answered - and then [he] waited - till almost eternity to decide on that final answer’’.

‘‘The entire place just exploded. The family of the contestant ran on to the set in uncontrollable joy and screams and tears of happiness, whilst the live audience were whooping it up on their feet with the loudest scream I have ever heard,’’ Bachchan wrote.
Before Kumar went on the programme, which was recorded on Tuesday and will air next week, he earned the equivalent of about about $145 a month as a government office worker and supplemented his income as a private tutor in the small town of Motihari in the eastern state of Bihar.
The third of five sons, he was working on a short-term contract as a computer operator on a public works scheme in the rural West Champaran district, close to the Nepali border.
Bihar is one of the poorest states of India and its remoter areas, such as Motihari, have been largely untouched by India’s phenomenal recent economic growth. Social indicators in much of Bihar are on a par with sub-Saharan Africa or worse.
Kumar’s brother said his family had been too poor to afford a television set and had watched the quiz show at a neighbour’s home. ‘‘We all used to watch the show from its beginnings years ago and Sushil always knew all the answers. People used to say: ‘Why don’t you try it? You could win the money!’’’

Kumar said he would spend some of his prize money on a preparatory course for India’s tough civil service exam, which could lead to a secure and prestigious lifetime job.

Kumar said he would also buy a new home for his wife, pay off his parents’ debts, give his brothers cash to set up small businesses and build a library in Motihari so the children of his village would have access to ‘‘books and knowledge’’.


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