The epic journey of a poor Indian driver who must use his wit and cunning to break free from servitude to his rich masters and rise to the top of the heap.
Based on the debut novel from author Aravind Adiga that went on to win the Man Booker prize, ‘The White Tiger’ is a compelling satirical drama about the rise of a man from a lowly servant to a successful entrepreneur. It uses dark comedy to explore the class struggle in India, and whilst its themes are universal, its story is very much grounded in the milieu of Indian culture and life, with all the problems and challenges that entails. Our protagonist is this man, Balram Halwai (Adarsh Gourav), and he narrates the story of his rise, justifying the actions he took to lead him to the point when we join him, and I thought this was a really strong piece of work.
‘The White Tiger’ is directed by Raman Bahrani, a filmmaker who made one of my favourite films of the past decade in ’99 Homes’, a film set in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash in the United States. ‘The White Tiger’ shares themes with that film, but where that film was an angry riposte, this film is dark and satirical. Adarsh Gourav, in his first leading role, is terrific, capturing the journey Balham goes on from scared and poor but ambitious villager, to a man who sees a route to success and will do anything to get there. His journey to get there takes him to some dark places, but through Gourav’s charismatic performance, we find ourselves rooting for Balham despite some of his actions. Narration in a film can often be to its detriment but I think ‘The White Tiger’ uses it well, adding context to Balham’s circumstances and actions, often with tongue in cheek.
‘The White Tiger’ is a well-made rags to riches drama with lots to say about modern India and the caste system that has led to a two-tier system developing, and in Adarsh Gourav, it’s found a potential star. Sharp, stylish and very entertaining, ‘The White Tiger’ is available on Netflix now.
Directed By: Ramin Bahrani
Starring: Adarsh Gourav, Rajkummar Rao, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Mahesh Manjrekar and Vijay Maurya