Feature Name: The White Tiger
Cast: Priyanka Chopra, Rajkummar Rao, Adarsh Gourav, Mahesh Manjrekar
Directed by: Ramin Bahrani
Runtime: 125 minutes
Streaming on: Netflix
The White Tiger’s premise about a poor, smart boy’s aspirational journey to success in poverty-stricken Indian.
The White Tiger, based on 2008 novel and Man Booker Prize winner by Aravind Adiga, explores the dehumanisation wrought by India’s social caste system.
The chasm between the wealthy and the poor and the oppressive systems that ensure there are few opportunities to rise.
Balram was born in darkness as a halwai, a caste of sweet makers. He lives in an impoverished town where the citizens must pay their vicious landlord a prohibitive amount of money. His large family all sleep in the same dirt-covered room and he’s pulled out of school after two years to work in the tea shop.
When the landlord and his family drive into town in their shiny, large car, all the village children run after the symbol of privilege. When Balram is older, he learns to drive and becomes a driver for the landlord’s family.
Specifically his youngest son Ashok played by Rajkummar Rao and his wife Pinky played by Priyanka Chopra Jonas.
Taking pride in being a servant to such a prominent family. Balram eventually becomes a successful entrepreneur – which is where the story starts. It is then told in flashbacks – but how he makes it is the damning verdict The White Tiger passes on India’s social system and corruption.
Directed and written by American filmmaker Ramin Bahrani. The White Tiger is a searing adaptation about the suffocating traps of class, especially in a society as stratified as India.
Bahrani has form in this area, having previously made 99 Homes. An excellent post-GFC story about the metaphorical cannibalism of American aspirations. The institutions that exploited it with minimal qualms.
Watching Gourav pull off such a balancing act is the best reason to see The White Tiger. An actor and singer, Gourav’s charisma animates a film that otherwise can sag with heavy-handedness.
Bahrani isn’t a director with a light touch, but, then again, he’s drawn to subjects that deserve bluntness.
Bahrani, with Paolo Carnera’s vivid cinematography, builds a dense, incisive film that nevertheless feels uneven in structure.
The movie is so invested in the mentality of the slave-master relationship between Balram and Ashok, the landlord’s hipster son, that it overwhelms.
Almost as soon as Balram, through bloodshed and Machiavellian guile, achieves independence, “The White Tiger” is wrapping up. Maybe it’s too American a thing to say, but it skips over the best part.
We with all our heart give the film 3.5 stars.