Arvind Adiga’s ‘White Tiger’ is a satirical study of the huge class divide that exists in the country. It’s a scathing tale of one man who crosses barriers to overcome the differences in the strata that separates the rich from the poor. Writer-director Ramin Bahrani adapts the source material into a two-hour script that drives the film version. As the old adage goes, the script may not be a very reliable version of the actual book, yet it serves the purpose of bringing out the deep, unsettling truth about the two Indias co-existing in one country. 

The film begins with an unnamed entrepreneur writing a letter to the Chinese premier who’s about to visit the country. The letter tells the viewer about this entrepreneur who once upon a time, was a nobody known as Balram Halwai, belonging to the lower caste of a village called Laxmangarh. As the story progresses, the viewer gets to see different dynamics that exist in the socio-political fabric of the society, all from the point of view of a man, who the system considers of no importance. At the interval, the story takes a dark turn, from which there’s no return for all the characters involved.

The book had received a thunderous response because of the solid writing material it had. It was based at a time when there was a change of wind in the political system of the country. The movie falters because it becomes a spiritual successor to Danny Boyle’s ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. The poverty porn is in abundance, so there’s an off chance of this becoming a huge taker in the west, however, it would definitely have its detractors here in the subcontinent. The film talks about the class difference which is the primary point the book is also driven upon. It brings out the angst and desperation of the have-nots kept pent up against the ones who have everything. In a way, it shows the protagonist on a boiling cauldron, as his adulation towards his employer turns into a deep, unsettling hatred. From that aspect, the film does score. However, the film tries to stay too close to the book, so the way of speaking, quotes, dialogues remain similar which may evoke a different sentiment altogether from viewers.

The film works due to a splendid Adarsh Gourav who enacts the role of Balram Halwai, the protagonist. It’s a difficult role and so demands various nuances from a seasoned actor. Adarsh gives his blood and sweat to bring this character to life. He looks, walks and talks the part. Rajkumar Rao and Priyanka Chopra play the couple who become the decisive factor in Balram’s life choices. Priyanka fits her role to T, as the accented NRI who sees a different India altogether. Rajkumar Rao is an odd choice for a role that seems to be tailor-made for Rahul Khanna. But Rao enacts his part earnestly. Mahesh Manjrekar, Vijay Maurya, Nalneesh Nil, Swarup Sampat and Kamlesh Gill play supporting roles and are efficient in their respective characters. At two hours and five minutes, the film is a tad longer. Paolo Carnera’s lenses effectively capture both worlds – the ever collapsing rural India and standing on its ruin, modern India. 

It’s an interesting film, which may have arrived a couple of years later than when it was supposed to. Nevertheless, one should watch ‘White Tiger’ for its poignant take on the rigged system that makes life unequal on each side.

‘White Tiger’ now streaming on Netflix worldwide. Rated Adult for foul language and graphic violence. Running time 2 hours and 5 minutes.

The Cinemawala Rating – 2.5/5

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