Movie Plot – The White Tiger: An ambitious Indian private driver uses his wit and cunning to escape poverty and reach the top. An epic journey based on the New York Times bestseller.
Director: Ramin Bahrani
Writers: Ramin Bahrani, Aravind Adiga
Cast: Adarsh Gourav, Rajkummar Rao, Priyanka Chopra
I’m a little buyest to these films as I appreciate them more than the regular movie viewer. Why? Well, because I have some roots in Sri Lanka, which is an island under India. So these countries have some similarities except for their religions. Sri Lanka’s main religion is Buddhism, while India is Hinduism.
The White Tiger reminded me a lot of Slumdog Millionaire, where a poor person wins “Who wants to be a millionaire?” based on his own life story. Stories about people living in poverty and difficult situations somehow know how to interest me. It reminds me of how lucky some of us are and how grateful I am for what I have.
In The White Tiger, rich and poor seem to be in a holding pattern from which there is barely any escape. But the delightfully clever and sneaky main character Balram doesn’t give up so easily.
It’s the century of the brown man and the yellow man
The socially critical, satirical film follows Balram from a poor child, condemned to chopping stones, through his work as a driver for a wealthy Indian family to a successful entrepreneur. How he managed this, he tells in a long letter to the Chinese Prime Minister. He intersperses his surprising life story with reflections on Indian society and the ingrained master-servant relationships. He bridges the gap between his story of the emancipation of the outcasts and the rise of China and India. ‘It is the century for the brown and the yellow man,’ he writes. They are the future.
Belram and also, in fact, the director Ramin Bahrani, sketch India as a world of chandeliers and cockroaches, where everyone uses each other as soon as he gets the chance. Rich and poor have each other in a grip from which it is difficult to escape.
A great example is a woman for whom he works and seems to have the most empathy for him, can just as easily laugh at him or be disgusted by him the next moment. Balram, to his own irritation, lapses right back into irritating servile behavior.
They’re only nice because they’re rich
The White Tiger reminded me of the film, Parasite. One line that really struck me in that Korean film was that the rich were nice because they have everything. On the other hand, the poor aren’t because they have to fight for what they want. And I’m not saying they’re bad people. They just live in different situations, and it’s incomparable. This line really resonated with this film.
Balram may be the protagonist, and you find yourself rooting for him but sympathetic, he is not. However, he is smart and sneaky, and inventive. It’s exactly what makes him such a delightful character – that, and the huddled way actor Adarsh Gourav portrays him in front of all those thick-skinned rich Indians. When he finally straightens his shoulders and claims victory, it’s pleasantly ambivalent.
As a kind of anti-hero, he is very good at playing on your moral principles: do you understand his far-reaching actions because he wants to get out of his situation? Balram steals the show without much effort. You sympathize with him tremendously and, at the same time, doubt his choices.
What is very confronting is how the servants worship their masters. Of course, you know they don’t really mean this. Yet, it feels like they have been brainwashed and would do anything for them. It is actually something that is still going on today in India and even Sri Lanka. And probably other countries too. That all makes the movie even better.
The movie explains simply how the caste system divides the Indian population into groups and how difficult it is to escape from the situation you are in. The White Tiger is brilliant and exceeded my expectations.
Side note: Don’t watch the trailer if you haven’t yet. In my opinion, it spoils some parts you should find out while watching the film.