Wildlife enthusiasts will know that white tigers are a rare genetic mutation. It is indeed unusual to see a tiger born with white fur, and as anything uncommon is celebrated, white tigers are prized creatures. It is equally rare for an author to write his first novel and turn it into immense success. But that is what Aravind Adiga accomplished with his debut novel "The White Tiger", which was published back in 2008, and won the Man Booker Prize in that year. Interestingly, his book celebrated another rarity in itself, an unusual "White Tiger" that emerges once in a while in our society, winning against all odds.
He sets his story in India, and he establishes our country as a backdrop of immense poverty and religiousness. Perhaps God has always been a crunch of the poor, and with thirty-six million Gods to pray to, the poor are never deprived. The story follows a poverty-stricken man with ambition, but unlike most success stories, this one is not clean-cut. The plot turns ugly soon enough, but the readers cannot help but turn the pages. Halfway into the book, it is too late to escape from the clutches of the tiger.The White Tiger pounces from the pages to our screens
It is no surprise that they turned this gripping novel into a movie. Who better to handle the task than Ramin Bahrani, an Iranian-American filmmaker who has a keen eye for the stories of the marginalized? His filmography is energized with empathy for the underdog, and “The White Tiger” can be counted as one of his successes. Curiously, Bahrani knew Adiga from his days at Columbia University and describes his friend as “one of the smartest people” that he has ever known. He does justice to his old acquaintance, by carefully building one of the best thought-provoking films of 2021. The film oscillates from being dark to being funny, and one can't help but admire the storytelling mastery of Bahrani.Preparing to step into the story: A Look at the team of "The White Tiger"
Bahrani surely doesn’t let himself procrastinate; his sincerity is apparent in his methods. Before filming, the director decided to spend a lot of time in India. Perhaps he thought that riding the local buses and visiting the places Adiga wrote about would bring him closer to the story.
His lead actor, Adarsh Gourav, followed his steps, and he too researched India's villages to understand the life of BalramHalwai, the protagonist of the film. He went a step further, by disguising himself and staying in a remote village in Jharkhand. Slogging to earn Rs.100 a day paid off, as anyone will agree that Gourav owns the role of the impoverished Balram and makes it into his own. The audience would be at a loss to imagine anyone else in his place.
The rest of the cast are famous and are also memorable in their performances. Priyanka Chopra Jonas said, in an interview, that she was excited to receive a script for “The White Tiger”. Even though the well-known actress is not playing a big role in the movie, her approach to playing New-York raised Pinky, the wife of an affluent man named Ashok (played by Rajkumar Rao), is worthy of praise.
Rajkumar Rao is fantastic in portraying Ashok, an affluent man whose relationship with his servant is complex and intriguing. Ashok is someone who tries to bring about change and to defy the predominant culture, but as the story progresses his attempts and ideas seem to get twisted. The conflicts and similarities between master and servant could not be better acted out by anyone else other than Rao.The White Tiger gets ready to hunt!
Good movies make the audience cheer for the hero; the best movies make them root for the villain. It is very difficult to not sympathize with the once bright boy of the village who didn't have a chance to aim for a better future. BalramHalwai tells the audience about his entire life through an email, which he intends to send to the Chinese Premier. His fascinating success story starts in extreme poverty, takes a turn by seeking employment at a rich man’s house, and ends by becoming a rich man himself. The path to prosperity was difficult, and Balram goes through a lot of changes, turning from a hopeful dreamer to a cold-hearted entrepreneur.
Every main character is addressed with the name of an animal, making the story seem like it is taking place in a jungle. And the rules of this jungle are harsh and unyielding. One can hardly blame Balram for trying to escape the rooster coop built by his caste and fate, but it takes someone with rare abilities, a white tiger, to leap at the have and the have-nots.
The deeply satirical plot about the political and economic structures of India reels us in. Even the "woke" master and his wife fail to understand what it means to be poor, to be destined to repeat the cycle of doom unless one manages to wretch free. In the middle of the film, there is an unforgettable scene of an actual white tiger prowling restlessly in his cage, as if plotting to get out.What does freedom cost?
Nothing comes free in this world, and if you ask Balram Halwai, freedom is worth any cost it demands. The film ends by sharing the ultimate price of stepping into the “Light” and our white tiger doesn’t regret one cent of it. When corruption, globalization, and inequality build a maze, one does what one has to do.
"The White Tiger" is a black comedy that is brimming with anger. With the recent pandemic, no one can deny the stark inequalities present in our country, and seeing the movie has to make us think, "Do we dare to keep the structure unchanged?"