The White tiger is an exhilarating tale of money, greed and struggle as one man tries to climb his way to the top of the food chain, now with added class rage and corruption. With emotionally charged performances by Adarsh Gourav and Priyanka Chopra this film adaption of the best-selling novel will leave you checking your privilege and clutching your pearls.
Based on the Man Booker prize winning novel of the same name by Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger follows Balram Halwai (played by Adarsh Gourav) as he transforms from a poor tea shop employee into a cunning business mogul.
On the way to the top, he acts as a loyal driver to his ‘master’ Mr Ashok (Rajkummar Rao) and Pinky Madam (Priyanka Chopra), both portraying that condescending niceness that many of the rich and famous have adopted, in a grossly believable way.
The Netflix film celebrates and shames the two sides of India, but it is something that speaks to people from all over the world. It displays the people we all know, those that shout sweet nothings from their pedestal, but will not climb down to meet you, or better yet, rise you up to their level.
This is what The White Tiger speaks to, the entitlement of the caste system in India, and beyond.
Films that comment on class rage have hit the mainstream in the last number of years and have sparked important conversations. Bong Joon-Ho’s Oscar winning Parasite is probably the best example, but there are countless others that speak to the frustrations of the working class and the systems that keep them where they are.
I am by no means labelling this film as the next Parasite. It is just a good story done well. Not everything has to be the best thing you have ever seen. This Aravind Adiga adaption is just a very satisfying film to watch. That comment might come back to bite me after you have seen the film though.
Adarsh Gourav is exceptional as his character undergoes his transformation. He inhabits a man bred to be a servant; whose entire belief system is challenged as he ventures deeper into this world of corruption. Gourav switches easily between playing a tiger and snake and leaves us questioning who we should be rooting for throughout the film.
For me one of the delightful surprises of the film was Priyanka Chopra who excels in her role as patronising wife, Pinky Madame. This is the biggest change that the film makes from the source material, as the character is less outwardly cruel but nonetheless sickly condescending to the less fortunate people around her.
Arguably this makes her even harder to swallow as she hides behind her privilege when things get too real and consequences must be faced.
Ramin Banhani’s direction is clear cut and simple. At times his camera is almost suffocating as we are drawn into the character’s lives and problems. There are highs that are intoxicating to watch but the hangover is equally satisfying. Banhani, who also wrote the screenplay, strikes a good balance between honouring the source material and finding his own voice.
I would say the film slightly outstays its welcome at a two hour and five-minute run time, but this is a story that should not be rushed as the frustration felt by the characters must be built upon.
This is a film to be watched in the dark to match its subject matter. It will make you laugh at the irony and angry at the truth of it all, it is a strangely cathartic watch.
Featured image credit: Netflix