Broken dreams, discarded ambitions and aspirations, forced obligations, the ingrained mentality that the rich can have their way, the constant power play, and a soul that slowly loses its innocence but retains a warped version of his consciousness– that’s what Netflix’s latest film, The White Tiger is all about. And while it may look like we have managed to sum up what makes this Ramin Bahrani film a masterpiece, this barely skims its the top of its many layers.
Time and again, Bahrani displays his knack for truly understanding the fickleness of human mind and one’s inherent nature, something which is abundantly visible in The White Tiger, an expertly woven adaptation of 2008’s Booker Prize-winning novel of the same name by Aravind Adiga.
While his 99 Homes was an introduction to his awe-worthy grasp on human emotions and flaws, The White Tiger takes it a step further and dips its toes in of how greed and desire go hand in hand and how sometimes it is hard to distinguish the right from the wrong, moral values take the backbench especially when the one who is being wronged is remorselessly sinning himself.
In the beginning of The White Tiger, we see Balram (impressively played by Adarsh Gourav) penning a letter to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao who is coming to India to meet budding entrepreneurs. And from the start, he clarifies that no matter how many castes there are in India, those who have money can rise above anything, do any wrong, and escape the consequences of their dire acts.
Told by Balram himself, who pegs himself as the rare White Tiger that managed to shrug out of the iron hold that poverty had in his life. Ambitious from his childhood, Balram’s dreams of making it big in life were cruelly squashed by his family’s poverty and his Grandmother’s insatiable hunger for more money. But he never gave up on the dream. He was always on the lookout for a person who will become his ideal and one day he finds him– Ashok (Rajkumar Rao), the son of the greedy village landlord, who appears to be cultured, well-mannered, and someone with kindness in his heart.
While Balram manages to become his driver, it soon becomes apparent that all that Ashok’s years in America have changed was his accent as he was just as ruthless and arrogant– he is aware that he is rich and above those who are not, something that his wife, Pinky (Priyanka Chopra) catches on. She leaves him, but Balram is stuck, left to pay for being a loyal servant and this is where The White Tiger takes a dark turn.
While Balram’s aspired to be rich, his dreams were initially rooted in a perception that he will ace it with sheer hard work. But a closer look at the life of the rich who exploit him for their profit, his kind heart takes on a darker stance and while the change in him is chilling, you can’t help but be sad at the reality his life represents– how it’s money that makes all the difference, not your kindness, not your loyalty, nothing else. It’s a cruel truth, a little too harsh, but it’s the truth nevertheless and The White Tiger doesn’t hesitate to shine the light on it.
The White Tiger, released on 22nd January, is currently streaming on Netflix.