The White Tiger: A barbed tale of rags-to-riches

A story of an ambitious driver who uses his wit and intelligence to overcome poverty and rise as a successful entrepreneur.


Photo credit: instantbollywood.com

Vedika Mane

Bengaluru: Ramin Bahrani’s The White Tiger is a clenching tale of the poor trying to cope with or escape from poverty, casteism, inequality, corruption, globalization, and crime. Based on Aravind Adiga’s 2008 Man Booker prize-winning novel, the film is all about a man’s quest for freedom from a society in which the rich keep getting richer. ‘Eat or get eaten up’ is what Balram, the protagonist, tells us as he takes us through his journey.

Picture credit: kobo.com

The story is narrated through emails by the protagonist and narrator, Balram Halwai (Adarsh Gourav), as he sends them to Wen Jiabo and states that the Indian underclass is trapped in an everlasting state of servitude. He compares the people around him to the chickens in a coop by explaining that each one of them knows its fate and can smell the blood but none of them chooses to get out of it or dare to escape it. The film maintains a dark satirical tone throughout.

Bahrani, an Iranian-American director, depicts the extraordinary journey of a self-made man from a tea-shop worker in the small village of Laxmangarh, to a chauffeur, and ultimately, to a successful entrepreneur in Bangalore.

Gourav’s character says in the film: “I would have to become a creature that gets born only once every generation – The White Tiger – that’s what I call myself these days”, connects the dots of why he often refers to himself as the ‘The White Tiger’ in the emails he sends to the Chinese politician, requesting him for a meeting on his visit to India. Balram is smart and ambitious but his dreams are crushed after his father’s death. However, he later applies his intelligence to break free of his small-town shackles.

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The film marks Adarsh Gourav’s debut as a lead, and it can be rightly said that the actor did a remarkable job and enough justice to Balram’s character. It would not be wrong to say that Gourav overshadowed the other prominent actors in the film including Rajkummar Rao, Priyanka Chopra, and Mahesh Manjrekar.

Rao’s performance is brilliant but his attempt to pull off the American accent makes his character weak as the film progresses. Priyanka Chopra doesn’t have a lot to offer to the audience and stars in a supporting role. She is also one of the executive producers for the film.

Mahesh Manjrekar plays the evil and entitled patriarch and Swaroop Sampatn portrays The Great Socialist who appears to be soft-spoken but is a foul-mouthed politician.

Ramin Bahrani brings together a mixture of immoral entrepreneurship, political corruption, exploitation of the underclass by the upper class, and a crime so perfect that turns the protagonist’s life upside down.

The film, which is streaming on Netflix, is a decent one-time-watch and an eye-opener that makes us wonder how society would function if the underclass starts transgressing their boundaries. Bahrani’s direction is a barbed tale of rags-to-riches in modern India.

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