The Reel Review
Balram, a clever member of India’s servant class, seizes an opportunity to become the driver for a wealthy family in Delhi, in his attempt to break free of contemporary India’s ever-present and oppressively rigid caste system. This satirical Netflix crime drama is based on Aravind Adiga’s popular 2008 New York Times bestseller.
Adarsh Gourav gives an outstanding, breakout performance in this melodramatic tale about the chasm between the rich and the poor. Think of this as the reality check to 2008’s inspiring but implausible Slumdog Millionaire, with a heavy dose of last year’s fellow Best Picture Oscar winner, Parasite. The transformative hardening of Balram’s spirit is something to behold, particularly after the seemingly well-meaning Ashok (Rajkummar Rao) and Pinky (Priyanka Chopra Jonas) treat him like a disposable puppet. To makes matters worse, even Balram’s own family wants to keep him down.
The biggest drawbacks of The White Tiger are several really clunky scene transitions, a way too long second half and a muddled ending that diminishes the impact of the film’s big shocking climax – and it’s a doozy. Despite that, The White Tiger is still a powerful look at the bleak future faced by millions of modern day Indians, brainwashed into thinking they will never be more than part of the servant caste.
• The White Tiger has been nominated for two BAFTAs – Adarsh Gourav for Best Leading Actor and Ramin Bahrani for Best Adapted Screenplay.
• Priyanka Chopra Jonas, the wife of pop star Nick Jonas, was also an executive producer of The White Tiger.
• Rajkummar Rao won India’s prestigious National Film Award for Best Actor for his portrait of human rights activist Shahid Azmi in 2013’s Shahid.