Slumdog Millionaire: How Much is 20 Million Rupees, Anyway?

20 million rupees. That’s a lot of cash, right? Well, sort of.

Slumdog Millionaire seems to be heading for a big Oscar night, so we thought we’d take a closer look at the prize at stake in the movie.

Without giving away too much, I can say that the protagonist is a contestant on the Indian version of the game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” where the grand prize is a whopping 20 million rupees. That’s a lot of cash, right?


Well, let’s take a look, chai-wallah.

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(Warning: Slumdog Millionaire “spoiler” to follow, as if the outcome of this movie were ever in doubt.)

Those 20 million rupees works out to $436,020 in 2006 US Dollars (the film was set in 2006, according to the intro title card), less than half of the American game show’s equivalent.

"Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" Prize Values

[Source: Yahoo! Finance]

But America is a much wealthier nation than India. So how do the game show grand prizes compare to the average incomes of each country? Not surprisingly, the Indian prize is worth far more to a typical Indian than the American prize is to an American:

Prize Money as Multiple of Per Capita Income[Source: Reuters, US Bureau of Economic Analysis]

How does this translate into purchasing power? Assuming a roughly 29% tax rate for both countries, the leftover cash ($309,137.88) would allow our former chai-wallah to buy a fleet of 124 Tata People’s Cars at $2,500 each. The American after-tax prize ($709,000) would only buy 66 low-end Hyundai Accents at $10,822 each:


But say he chose to invest his winning in the Indian stock market instead of blowing it all on consumer goods. How would he have fared compared to an American stock investor?


[Source: Yahoo Finance. Blue represents the Dow Jones Industrial average; Green represents the Bombay Stock Exchange Sensitive Index.]

Since the middle of 2006, both indexes have lost significant value off of their peaks in late 2007/early 2008, but the Bombay Stock Exchange has fared better than the Dow as of this writing.

It seems no matter which way you cut it, the Slumdog gets the better end of the deal, even though his prize is smaller than the American equivalent in absolute terms. But this is all speculation. We have no way of knowing if Jamal lives a life free of financial worry, or if he blows his fortune on bad stocks and Tata cars. Unless…

Sequel, anyone?


10 Comments on “Slumdog Millionaire: How Much is 20 Million Rupees, Anyway?”

  1. Wade #

    Two words:

    Brewster’s. Millions.

    Oh, wait. Danny Boyle already made that movie, and he even called it “Millions”.


  2. Johann #

    Only if Jamal would want to move to the US, he’d be screwed since his Rupees aren’t worth as much there.

    In the German version of the show, when we had the transition from Deutsche Mark to Euros (conversion rate 1 Euro = 1.97 DM), they actually almost doubled the prize money: Now you can win 1 million Euros instead of 1 Million DM.


  3. M Chan #

    I don’t care about all this economic stuff. Jamal gets Freida Pinto at the end of the movie, and no amount of American money can top that.


  4. YTAH #

    Good one. I like this article more than I liked the film. Not that I liked the film that much.


  5. Damian #

    Lee, you are absolutely RIGHT!!


  6. Jack #

    I thought the movie was great. Away from the true american crap. The movie was sad in many parts but in fact reality…might have woken up a few people across the world. the shots were fantastic, the actors brilliant. Loved it and will watch it again.


  7. Agatha #

    i dont think dude cares much about his winnings equivelant in other currencies,i mean he gets both the money and the babe, people usually have to choose. lol


  8. andrew bozo evans #

    I like the indian guy. I want to bum him off


  9. Kathy #

    Its not about the money. Remember, he says,
    “I only did it because I thought you might be watching.”
    the money is just a good bonus


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