Released on Netflix 22 January 2021
It is not often that a director does justice to a novel. But Director Ramin Bharani does more than enough justice to the written material. Apart from capturing the spirit of the novel it also raises many pertinent questions. The film dwells deep into the caste mechanisms and how the rich put the poor in their place. The best way to describe it would be as an anti slumdog Millionaire. In this case it is a compliment to the film White Tiger.
The movie begins off with establishing the character of Adarsh Gaurav’s Balaram. We see Balaram narrating his story starting from the rural village of Laxmangarh. From Laxmangarh we go to Delhi where Balaram works as a servant to his master Ashok and Madam Pinky. The couple is played by Rajkumar Rao and Priyanka Chopra respectively. Balaram is fascinated by Ashok but that soon turns into bitterness because of a particular incident. Ashok and Pinky believe that their goodwill changes the class structure of the society. However they come with their shades of grey particularly Rajkumar Rao’s Ashok. Whenever Pinky speaks about education and equality her in-laws think that she is speaking too much. This is the synopsis.
The best part of White Tiger is how director Ramin Bharani manages to handle the heavy duty themes of caste, corruption and globalization. It never feels heavy handed and yet the message comes across perfectly. Ramin Bharani also deserves kudos for avoiding the clichés of the exotic India. He adopts a dark satirical tone while laying bare the hypocrisies of modern India. On one side of the coin you have the outright brutality of Ashok’s father and brother. On the other side there is the well meaning but ineffectual kindness of Ashok and his wife.
One major change when compared to the book is Priyanka Chopra’s character. Unlike the book here Pinky is better written and has an arc. Not surprisingly Priyanka fares far better with her American accent than Rajkumar Rao. Priyanka shines in her extended cameo and works well as a catalyst for the change in Gaurav.
Also Read: Kaagaz: Wastes a solid story
The director also deserves appreciation for he builds up the character of Balaram. Initially we get the feeling of Balaram romanticizing his master. At one point he even calls Ashok as his ex. From there the transformation of the character has been done in an effective manner. In fact, no feeling of sadness for Ashok comes when he is killed by Balaram. There is a feeling that Ashok deserves it.
The cinematography Paolo Carnera also plays a significant part in building up this universe. He captures the two distinctly different words with flair. In short, the cinematographer is successful in capturing the texture of the novel on to the screen.
Also Read: Maara: For the wanderer within you
The lines written for Adarsh Gaurav deserve a special mention. His observation of his master results in dialogues which hit the right spot.
The only point where White Tiger feels like a letdown is the casting of Rajkumar Rao as Ashok. The actor gets a clumsily written part and the American accent that Rajkumar Rao puts on becomes bothersome.
Not surprisingly the film belongs to Adarsh Gaurav. The actor sinks his teeth into the role and comes up trumps. This film should open doors for the actor.
On the whole White Tiger is a film which deserves your attention and time. It is must watch particularly for the many masters who take their servants for granted.