Adapted from Aravind Adiga’s Booker Prize – the 2008 bestselling debut novel of the same name, The White Tiger, directed by Ramin Bahrani, is a social satire that is sure to leave one discomforted by its depiction of changing India.
Starring Adarsh Gourav, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Rajkumar Rao, the Netflix film is Balram Halwai’s (Adarsh Gaurav) rags-to-riches story. The screen adaptation by Iranian-American writer-Director Ramin Bahrani, chronicles his journey from being the son of a rickshaw puller to a successful entrepreneur. This film was released in theatres on 13 January 2021, and produced worldwide by Netflix on 22 January 2021.
The film is a commentary on the struggles of India’s working class. It is a satire that divulges the themes of poverty, corruption, class struggle and most importantly, survival. For the first time in a long time, we get an uncensored unromantic depiction of India. Cinematographer Paolo Carnera, contrasts between the rich and the poor, the privileged and the underprivileged through his camera lenses. Forget the sight of ubiquitous cows roaming free on streets or green fields or merry Punjabis and their Bhangra, Carnera presents us a with a raw image of India with high rises, multiplexes, the rich on one side and villages, tea stalls, the poor, the rooster coop on another.
The story pans out between 2007 and 2010, a period of rapid change in an India. Balram Halwai, the protagonist of The White Tiger dares to free himself from his interminable life of servitude. The two-hour long film captures his fight for freedom from the rooster coop that is his life. Being sick of his life on a land divided by castes, uneven wealth distribution and a society driven by systematic violence against the weak, he takes it upon himself to free himself form the throes of tribulation by doing something unspeakable yet he shows no remorse. It is this remorselessness after his seemingly perfect crime that shakes one to his bones.
The White Tiger captures the lengths that one is ready to go to free themselves from the worst by doing the worst. The plot is intricately weaved with a plethora of characters representing corrupt politicians and police officers, struggling working classes and scenes that sheds light on underlying feudal oppression and patriarchy that is entrenched within the society. It provides us with a vivid depiction of the India of Light, and an India of Darkness as Adiga says in his Novel.
The movie is well written and editors do a great job of gliding through the themes of poverty depravity and rebellion. Adarsh Gourav shines as Balram delivering a powerful performance that forces one to sit through an otherwise seemingly underwhelming adaptation. Priyanka Chopra Jonas has come a long way from her put on accent days of Baywatch as she delivers quite a convincing performance as Indian born NRI Pinky. Rajkumar Rao is exceptional as usual in doing his part as an amiable Ashok. Though one might say that his accent is too put on, he is far from being a glib like Deepika Padukone’s Serena from XXX: The Return Of Zander Cage.
Anchored solely by a captivating lead performance by Adarsh Gaurav, the movie despite being a brilliant adaption of the Novel leaves a little more to desire. The White Tiger is entertaining at parts and it does a great job with social commentary and it gives us a scathing glimpse at undocumented parts of India. The plot seems a little underwhelming for a Netflix adaptation yet it poses daunting questions to the viewers like Is the only way to escape the rooster coop is to own one? Watch The White Tiger, available now on Netflix, to decide for yourself.
Md. Saemul Haque Noori is a student pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Shaireen Khan
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.