The film is adapted to the big screen from the Booker prize winning novel with the same title written by Arvind Adiga. Clearly the film belongs to the genre of ones like Slum Dog Millionaire, Salaam Bombay and their ilk. In the first few minutes of the film, if you are an Indian and that too living in India, you will cringe and get irritated/Angry at some of the scene constructs and narratives, which we are all familiar by now. But then, soon you realise that the film showcases some of the hard realities of India and in particular the wide gap that exists between the haves and the have nots. So, you start looking at the film with a sense of acceptance.
The film tracks the story of a young aspirational kid from a small town in North India. He is under privileged but wants to shun the type of life his parents have been living. In this journey, we are taken on a conducted tour of the caste based discrimination, religious divides, the feudal attitudes and many other fault lines that exist in our society even today. While we have seen this arch before, what makes “The White Tiger” different and engaging at the same time is the shunning of the usual trope – “Rich are all always bad and the poor are all always good”. Clearly, this is the not the case here. The main protagonist’s characterisation, which is that of a struggler has shades of white, grey and black as the film progresses. Not just this boy, many other characters around him come in shades of grey. At the end, the boy does makes it big but not without his own share of wrong doings which sort of justify the means.
The director Ramin Bahrani uses voice over of the hero to take us through different phases and events in the film. And the voice overs are peppered with sweeping lines like – “In India, entrepreneurs have to bribe and cheat to be successful” which goes over the top at times. There are more lines likes this which give you the feeling that the film is not intended for the Indian audience!
The film belongs to Adarsh Gaurav who owns the character of Balram Halwai, the struggler and delivers a startling performance. His body language, the range of emotions and dialogue delivery bring in front of our eyes the character in flesh and blood. Rajkumar Rao plays the role of a US return, rich man and one wonders what he is doing in this film. For such a class actor, he seems clearly lost in the film. Priyanka Chopra as Rajkumar Rao’s wife must have taken up the role just for saving some costs I believe, being the producer. She has a small role and mostly sleep walks.
I have not read the book and hence I cannot comment if the film is better than the book or otherwise. But in isolation if you look at it, the film is well made and is a one-time watch if you are fine with films outside of the realm of “Yashraj” and “Dharma” in Bollywood!