“The White Tiger” is a film based on its namesake novel by Aravind Adiga. The film follows Balram Halwai (Adarsh Gourav) as he narrates to us his story of running in the rat race of caste and capitalism. We are thrown into a car accident in New Delhi in 2007 involving Balram, his boss Ashok (Rajkummar Rao), and his boss’s wife, Pinky (Priyanka Chopra).
Disclaimer: This review may contain spoilers!
The film then moves on to seven years later where we now see Balram as a successful businessman in the tech-capitol Bangalore. He is e-mailing Chinese CEO, Wen Jiabao and telling him his life story. Balram tells Jiabao about his childhood in Laxmangarh and his desire to escape the “chicken coop.” Balram is seen as a bright student, but unfortunately, he is forced to quit school and work.
One day Balram sees Ashok, who has just returned from America, and decides that Ashok will be his ‘master’. Balram convinces his grandmother on the pretext that he will give her majority of the earnings if she loaned him the money to learn driving. Goal accomplished! Balram lands his dream job and becomes Ashok’s driver.
We then follow Balram as he tries his best to be a loyal employee, however, he hits a huge road bump when Pinky and Ashok get into a hit and run accident and try to pin it on Balram. Ashok’s family manages to intimidate Balram into signing a document stating that he had caused the accident. Luckily for Balram, no one had seen the accident so nothing is reported and he is off the hook. Pinky is plagued with guilt and soon after leaves for America. Ashok is enraged and blames Balram for Pinky’s departure, but eventually, he moves on and things seem to get back to normal. Balram isn’t able to get past taking the fall for his employers and the treatment he gets from them. This really highlights the difference in class in India and also takes a bite out of real-life stories. There are many stories of actors getting drunk and getting into accidents (see Salman Khan). Their poor drivers are usually coerced into taking the fall for them.
The film takes another interesting turn as we see how Balram makes it out of the ‘coop’. He goes from being the demure servant to a savage businessman who doesn’t care about the toes he steps on while climbing up the ladder.
Filmmaker Ramin Bahrani takes us through a cruel world of the morally corrupt, where we are faced with the harsh realities of the servants in India. This gritty drama is relatable to people from all walks of life. Priyanka Chopra and Rajkummar Rao fill their roles effortlessly, but it is Adarsh Gourav who shines through in the film as he plays a multilayered character.
“The White Tiger” manages to stay an authentically Indian film, yet could effectively be watched by anyone, anywhere in the world. So grab a bag of popcorn and log on to Netflix for the ride!
Rahmina is a freelance journalist who loves reading, writing, and traveling, but believes that her most coveted role to date is that of being a mommy to the most amazing, beautiful and extraordinary tiny human being.