The White Tiger
Director: Ramin Bahrani
Cast: Adarsh Gourav, Rajkummar Rao, Priyanka Chopra Jonas
Streaming on: Netflix
The White Tiger, the animal, is a rare once-in-a-generation phenomenon. The White Tiger, the film, based on Aravind Adiga’s book of the same title is a rare phenomenon too. Haven’t read the novel, headed straight into the film written for the screen and directed by Ramin Bahrani; and was blown away by it. It’s a scathing look on class. Set in India, where the population still continues to be divided by class and caste, and powerful people leverage on it for their personal and political gains. It is a rags-to-riches story. But not the usual where the hero is a moralist, righteous man. Here, the protagonist murders his way up to the riches.
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Balram (Adarsh Gourav), a young boy hailing from a rural village in Indian heartland refers to his position in society, the servants, as the ‘rooster coop’. He refers to the ruling man of the village as The Stork (Mahesh Manjrekar) and his son cum henchman as The Mongoose (Vijay Maurya). Balram finds himself entitled to servitude and finds his master in Stork’s second son Ashok which he says is called The Lamb. Ashok (Rajkummar Rao) and his wife Pinky (Priyanka Chopra Jonas) are US-return. They don’t believe in the feudal system which Ashok’s father rules.
These two are well-meaning towards Balram who finds a job as a second-rank driver in The Stork’s house. Thus begins Balram’s story of rags to riches. The movie is a letter Balram writes in 2010 to the then Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, which works as Balram’s voiceover running over the flashback beginning in Balram’s childhood.
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Adarsh Gourav as Balram gives a splendid performance, showing a great potential to become a star of his own kind. His body language from being a shoulders-down, smiling servant to a raging and successful entrepreneur is remarkable. The film doesn’t quite show what’s happening inside of him except a couple of instances when he’s talking to himself in the damp, mosquito-filled, make-shift arrangement made for servants and drivers in the basement of the high-rises.
He’s ably supported by Rajkummar Rao and Priyanka Chopra Jonas as the well-meaning but confused and spineless US-returns. The only thing that a large section of Indian audience might find a hurdle is that this film is in English where a village boy speaks almost fluent English. But that shouldn’t take away from the overall impact the film has on you. It’s a riveting crime drama spearheaded by fantastic writing and a giant of a performer, like The White Tiger. Must watch.