Rags to Riches in India
India has given the world so many wonderful films. My favorites include Monsoon Wedding, Lagaan, Lust Stories, Mystic Masseur, and Slumdog Millionaire. The last one I mentioned stands out partly because of its rags-to-riches theme. That always gets to me! The White Tiger offers us another rags-to-riches adventure, and this time it’s about an intelligent, ambitious driver in India who wants to be an entrepreneur. But the theme seems darker and not at all joyful.
Balram, played to the hilt by Adarsh Gouray, is not only the main character but also the movie’s frequently humorous and candid narrator. Listen closely and you will even hear him warning us when his character is about to do something shameful. .
This Ramin Bahrani film adaptation of Aravind Adiga's award-winning bestseller also stars Rujkummar Rao and Priyanka Chopra-Jonas as Balram’s master and wife who both ooze with condescension when dealing with him. These two ultra-attractive individuals have experience in America and want to help Balram better himself. They are “woke” -- as the current term implies. But they have no idea what Balram did to leave his poor family and what he promised his grandmother in order to borrow a small amount of money from her.
From poverty to servitude,
Balram tries hard not to be crude.
He serves his master eagerly
until betrayal sets him free.
“The White Tiger” shows Balram’s life
and how he coped with so much strife.
Sad that the last part of this flick
seems thrown together much too quick.
More details needed to show how
Balram became what he is now.
But acting in this pic is strong
which helps the story move along.
Despite its splendid performances, realistic scenes of brutal poverty and important revelations regarding the master/servant relationship in India, The White Tiger lost me during the last part of the story. I couldn’t help thinking of it as a preview for a sequel instead of a satisfactory ending to a major film. I think the servant period went on too long and the entrepreneur part got shortchanged.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I haven’t read The White Tiger novel by Aravind Adiga, but below are relevant quotes from this award-winning author.
The trustworthiness of servants is the basis of the entire Indian economy.
Do we loathe our masters behind a façade of love – or do we love them behind a façade of loathing?
A White Tiger keeps no friends. It’s too dangerous.
(Released by Netflix and rated “R” by MPAA.)