Director Ramin Bahrani’s The White Tiger is a ruthless, sometimes comedic, and overall engaging tale about a man’s rise to the top, despite some challenging circumstances. The charismatic lead elevates the film as a whole, and some of the things you see him go through are truly eye-opening, especially if you can’t relate to his struggle.
I’ve been meaning to catch The White Tiger for quite some time now, I simply never got around to it due to life in general. However, I was finally able to watch it and I’m glad I did. Since seeing the trailer some time ago, I knew this was going to be my kind of movie for more reasons than one. The introduction takes ahold of you, but in reality, you stay to see the main character’s growth throughout the film, which is expertly told from seeing where he came from, to where he ends up in the end.
At its core, the movie is about an overly ambitious Indian man named Balram (Adarsh Gourav), who sees the opportunity to become the driver for a rich Indian family and takes full advantage of it. As he begins this new endeavor, he learns what it’s like to be a part of this rich class, rejecting some of the ideas, but also utilizing them as well, along with his intelligence and wit, to ultimately escape his poor lifestyle and become a successful business man and entrepreneur.
At its core, Gourav’s portrayal of Balram is why you truly become captivated with everything that is going. This doesn’t mean all the other supporting characters aren’t interesting or lack proper development. In fact, I believe it’s the exact opposite. Their interactions with Balram make the film even more entertaining and interesting to watch. Seeing where Balram comes from, it’s evident he doesn’t belong there and is continuously striving to bring a better life for himself, no matter what it takes.
When he finally becomes the driver for the rich family, you see how most of them treat him like trash due to where he comes from, which is a bit unfortunate and sort of a culture shock. I can’t say I haven’t experienced rejection in some way, shape, or form. However, never of this magnitude. Then again, there are also those who are part of this family who truly see his worth and treat him like an actual human being. That was refreshing to see since I feel it’s mostly accurate regarding human beings. Not all are bad. In fact, I believe most are decent. Then again, not all decent people are perfect, and that’s also on display here.
The biggest jerks, by far, are The Stork (Mahesh Manjrekar) and The Mongoose (Vijay Maurya), the Stork’s son. The Stork is the father of the family, so he basically runs the show, while The Mongoose is the enforcer. He’s basically mean for no reason. They are, most definitely, the villains of the film, and you’ll be wishing the worst for them from the very beginning. Then there’s the couple, Ashok (Rajkummar Rao), The Mongoose’s brother, and his wife, Pinky (Priyonka Chopra). For the most part, they’re the ones who treat Balram with respect throughout the entire movie, especially Pinky, who mostly rejects the Indian culture since she was mostly raised in America and doesn’t agree all that much with the methods of Ashok’s family. But, unfortunately, they also have their moments of weakness in the film with Balram, which hits you straight in the gut when you watch it since you do begin to root for them. But, at least one of them is redeemable. I can’t speak for the other, so I’ll let you witness that for yourself.
What impacted me the most about this movie is how it goes into detail about India’s caste system. It basically divides Hindus into four main categories, but the film really only touches on two of them: the rich and the poor. Director Bahrani expertly brings this to light in The White Tiger, showcasing just how dire the poverty situation can be in India and how those who are part of the lower caste are considered nothing to everyone else, especially the rich who rule over everything else. It truly puts things into perspective and when you start to see Balram stand out above the rest and try to move forward in life, you wish him nothing but the best. Sadly, some of his methods are extreme and quite devastating at certain points, but at the same time, I’m not sure you can really blame him after all they’ve put him through.
In the end, he does make it, regardless of what he did to make it there. He uses his past experiences to treat everyone else differently and grant people the opportunities he never had growing up. I see The White Tiger as a showcase of a man who refused to stay stuck in the same poor lifestyle in order to make it and be successful, which he eventually does. Some scenes are brutal to watch, but there are also many charming sequences to witness, while being visually stunning at the same time.