It’s a rags to riches story, or in this case slumdog to millionaire. Balram (Adarsh Gourav), who comes from the low caste side of India, wriggles his way into a wealthy family and once he’s starting to earn real bucks as a personal chauffeur for them, develops an unhealthy taste for success. Balram hopes that his unconventional and criminal methods will help him climb to the top of the money tree.
We are essentially introduced to the film’s climax in its introduction. Not something that’s uncommon from a storytelling perspective. So we know he made it given what we’re shown in its opening scene, but how he got there and what challenges he went through in the process, is what this film slowly unravels.
To begin with, Balram’s want for a better and more successful life away from his family’s endless cycle of low caste living, is more than understandable. The further on we go though, the more unsympathetic we feel for his character. This is to no fault of Adarsh Gourav’s, who puts on a fantastic performance and relatively takes the story on completely himself. The issue often lies with its writing.
The White Tiger is adapted from the novel of the same name by author Aravind Adiga. I’m not familiar with the book myself, so I’ll leave it up to the people who have experienced the narrative in both book and movie form, to decide how this adaptation fairs. Viewing it from the perspective of its film media, I find Balram (in particular) to be a tough central character to back.
Being a servant is no easy job. To follow every command of one’s master, no matter how obscure or ridiculous seems unfavourable in every aspect. Balram takes us into that world, where the class system feels worlds apart. To those he works for he is treated as a lesser human, but in the eyes of his masters wife Madam Pinky (Priyanka Chopra), who was raised in the US, Balram is equal to those around him.
Balram’s naivety and initial good nature turns to callous and calculated opportunist when certain events unfold, and his heightened ambition for greed shows it’s colours.
The story is told by little narration from Balram himself, through an email he is sending to the Prime Minister of China. It often flips between his days as a chauffeur and his entrepreneurial enterprise.
The White Tiger is fairly well paced, but its story is one that you’re unlikely to care for. It has a point, but it seems to take an awful long time to get to it and perhaps the two hour runtime that it manages to stretch to, is a little unnecessary.
The shocking implications left in its final act leave us perhaps the feeling of being sold short. The film ends in a far different position in which it starts and you’re left trying to remind yourself where things took a turn.
If to be viewed as two halves, The White Tiger works in both. Together though, we get something that feels bizarrely uneven and out of nowhere becomes chaotic.
Strong performances by most and its deep enrichment into its Indian culture, pick up an awful lot of the slack. But so far this year, Netflix are starting to find their rhythm and if this influx of originals that are hitting the streaming service this year, build upon each of it previous successes, then it could be an important year of movie rejuvenation.