The White Tiger is a new Indian film that was recently released on Netflix. It stars Adarsh Gourav and Rajkummar Rao. The White Tiger follows Balram, an extremely poor boy from India who decides to break free of the caste system. A lot of people are comparing this film to Slumdog millionaire. And while they’re definitely similar movies, The White Tiger is much less of a feel good movie, and more of a thriller.
The White Tiger follows Balram, a poor Indian boy from a village owned by a rich businessman. As he grows up, Balram realizes he will never naturally escape from the poverty caused by the caste system, and instead will have to forge his own fate, through any means necessary. He eventually becomes a chauffeur for Ashoke, the heir to the businessman who owns his village.
This film is very critical of the caste system in India, something which other films seem scared to do. It really enlightens you on how absolutely rigged and unfair the entire system is. It’s also used for some very interesting plot threads, such as Balram literally having to force himself to think against an ideology which has been in him all his life. Additionally, the characters in this film are fantastic. They’re extremely well written and nuanced. Ashoke and his wife are perfect examples of this. When alone with Balram they treat him like family, yet when around other people they behave completely differently. Most of all however, they feel very believable, and the conflict Balram feel when trying to rebel against a master who is nice to him feels realistic. All of this is backed up by some absolutely fantastic acting from virtually everyone in the movie.
One thing I didn’t like is that the pacing is a little weird in this film. The beginning starts off great, and it has momentum up until the halfway point. Not to spoil anything, but there is an accident and Balram is blamed. From here on I thought the movie would become much darker, but instead it almost evolves into a buddy film between Balram and Ashoke. It isn’t until the very last act that this movie begins to get very dark. It felt interrupted in a sense because of the strange pivot. Now, I understand they had to give Ashoke more character development, however they could’ve done that pre-accident, albeit in a slightly different nature, and not hurt the pace of the movie. It felt a little amateurish in what was otherwise a really fantastic experience.
I have no doubt that this film will be praised in the years to come similarly to Slumdog Millionare. However I also think this film is a lot less accessible due to it addressing uncomfortable issues, and being less of a feel good movie. That being said, despite some missteps with pacing, The White Tiger is great, and absolutely merits a watch.