Star Cast: Adarsh Gourav, Rajkummar Rao, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Mahesh Manjrekar, Vijay Maurya, Kamlesh Gill, and ensemble.
Director: Ramin Bahrani
What’s Good: Adarsh Gourav’s terrifying acting, Ramin’s gut-wrenching screen adaptation and crisp storytelling, all coming together to shake you.
What’s Bad: If you don’t watch it.
Loo Break: Definitely not. Hold it or freshen up before you begin watching, Because these 2 hours are Adarsh’s and he won’t let you even take away your eyes for a second.
Watch or Not?: I cannot find a single reason to tell you to not watch The White Tiger. It is an antidote to Slumdog Millionaire and if you are looking for an all good ending, we don’t know that here. Leave everything aside and WATCH!
Balram (Adarsh Gourav) a self-made entrepreneur sits down to narrate his tale to a Chinese big wig through a mail in 2010. He begins from the time he lived in a rural village of Laxmangarh to his journey to Delhi and finally Bangalore. The story touches corruption, oppression, inequality, crime and several other evils of the society that the have nots go through and the haves are either dumb or find comfort in that.
The White Tiger Movie Review: Script Analysis
Adapted from Arvind Adiga’s Man Booker prize-winning novel The White Tiger, which was dedicated to Ramin Bahrani, the Netflix film is discomforting to the max. Writer-director Bahrani gets into the heart of a man who has possibly faced every evil of the society at a young age and wants to break out. He calls it the chicken coop.
Remember how in Bong Jong Ho’s Oscar-Winning Parasite, the conflict was who the parasite exactly is? The rich who are blinded by their privilege or the have not who is penetrating their world, so as to have the piece of it? Bahrani and Adiga’s story feeds on the same conflict but with a more inclusive manner. Here too there are levels and not designed but subconsciously created. The rich stay in plush apartments with chandeliers and shining walls. But the poor delve in the shadow of their high rises and basements. The poor create a world out of the mess in the basement, just like rats would. Another Parasite reference!
Amid all this Balram, the ‘servant’, Ashok, the ‘master’ (Rajkummar Rao) and Madam Pinky (Priyanka Chopra Jonas) are living their lives. Rahmin Bharani and Arvind Adiga write all their three protagonists with utmost care. Balram has seen both sides of the coin and is smart enough to break through barriers. He stays in the disguise of a good man but holds fire within him. Ashok and Pinky who have lived in America think their goodwill will change the class structure in the country. But dare you to assume them to be good people, they practise evil when needed too. But then who defines what’s evil?
Every time Madam Pinky spoke about education and equality, her surrounding had Balram or her in-laws, a stark contradiction and one could only sigh. The writing is competent to give all of them their shades. These aren’t one tone fictional characters; they are flesh and bone humans we meet when we get out on the street. Maybe our security has the story Balram had, perhaps Ashok and Pinky lurk in somewhere us too.
The White Tiger is a social commentary on the class discrimination, caste structure and oppression that the lower strata have been facing for the longest. The landlords then have now turned into the rich men who hire the have nots to exploit them. In a sequence that one might just miss, Ashok’s father asks Balram if he is Muslim, to which Balram replies something to the effect of “he bathes every day and is hygienic.” A subtle commentary at the perception many of us have made peace with. Adiga and Bahrani’s writing has numerous such reference.
The dialogues in The White Tiger deserve their independent review. Adarsh gets some of the best lines to mouth, and they hit you at the right spot. The fleeting moment where Pinky tells him “You were looking for the key for years, but the door was always open” comes after several other hard-hitting lines and they do create a huge impact. In a scene, Balram’s driving teacher calls the road the jungle, and it is this jungle than Balram metaphorically sets out to rule. The White Tiger metaphor I would like you to witness it yourself.
PS: someone please explain me Balram’s initial feelings towards master Ashok. He almost romanticized him. Feeling his first touch, the fragrance he is wearing and even calls him his ‘ex’ at one point.
The White Tiger Movie Review: Star Performance
In an interview Adarsh Gourav said he worked at a tea stall anonymously, just to get into his character. And trust me on this, I cannot see a single person who could have done the job so well. The man wears Balram as his uniform and not even a single moment goes by when his doings don’t convince you. (And I don’t mean clapping at the evils). There are layers to Balaram not just with the writing, but in enacting him too. He has a tornado of hate for the rich, but has to camouflage it as love for them. In a scene when he is staged as the murderer, for a crime he didn’t commit, I could see numerous emotions in his eyes while the camera was super zoomed into his face. Even his body language is a result of the pressures he has been through and Gourav aces it.
Rajkummar Rao and Priyanka Chopra walks through Ashok and Pinky as if it’s their everyday. Though in an extended cameo, Priyanka knows how to act broken, and when she is shaken, the pressure is built, and the movie takes a turn for the tragedy.
Kamlesh Gill, Balram’s granny, deserves a special mention. A character written so boldly and set in a time when matriarchy wasn’t even discovered. Her ways are wrong, but her attitude is what won me.
The White Tiger Movie Review: Direction, Music
Ramin Bharani knows what he is making and what he wants to show to his audience. The filmmaker has always found a rhythm in showcasing the lives of ordinary people and their ordeals. His protagonist (99 Homes, Chop Shop and others) have been about rebels who mend their ways to shape their lives. The White Tiger is no exception. In his direction, he lets discomfort rule the screen. He doesn’t zoom out from situations that might make the viewer shake a little; he instead zooms in.
Be it Balram rubbing his crotch when Pinky and Ashok make out in the back seat. Or the shattering defecating scene that is a gateway to Balram’s madness. All of this makes the brain cells of a viewer alert as to what bomb is dropped next, and there are quite a few.
Cinematographer Paolo Carnera deserves a significant share in creating this universe. He captures the world of The White Tiger in a raw texture. Balram’s shabby nails, his chapped and darkened lips, stained teeth get their screen time, so you understand where our protagonist is coming from. As for Pinky and Ashok, their luxury is capture in wide-angle to understand the empty space they have in their life but just 2 people to delve in.
Production design by Chad Keith and costumes by Smriti Chauhan are detailed. Editing is crisp but the parts where Rahmin and the editor cut to possible outcomes that Balram thinks of, it gets repetitive after a point.
The White Tiger Movie Review: The Last Word
There is too much to take away from The White Tiger. I am writing the review 15 minutes after watching the film. Maybe a second viewing will unfold much more. Ramin Bahrani’s key is discomfort and he unlocks his audience from the first frame. One must watch the film to understand how deep-rooted caste, class and religious hatred has seeped into us, and the people in power just use that to oppress. Watch The White Tiger on Netflix!
The White Tiger Trailer
The White Tiger releases on 22nd January, 2021.
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