By Junelie Anthony Velonta | February 2, 2021
What does it take to rise from poverty? Talent? Humility? Ruthlessness? Recently released by Netflix, “The White Tiger” aims to answer that question. Though it aims to provide revelation and commentary, some parts of it seem insincere.
Based on the novel of the same name by Aravind Adiga, this film is directed by Ramin Bahrani who is best known for his other films “Chop Shop” and “Man Push Cart.” It tells the story of Balram (Adarsh Gourav) as he discovers his talents and eventually rises up to a new identity—a new social status. Indeed, Gourav’s performance is the best part of the film. His performance shows an understanding of and the nuance needed to portray what it is like to be brought up in the mindset of servitude. From his drive to escape from his village, to his realization that he has been trapped and trampled on by everyone above him, Gourav delivers varied and complex portrayals that are sure to speak to those familiar with poverty.
It then becomes more tragic that, while Gourav gave an authentic act as Balram, the rest of the film does not sync up with him. The film itself is not bad. It tries to portray its problems in ways that are as real as possible. However, like the good wills and intentions of Pinky (Priyanka Chopra Jonas) and Ashok (Rajkummar Rao), the film is detached from the realities of its portrayals. From the hit-and-miss attempts at being a bilingual film and sometimes awkward dialogue, to the ending that overstays its welcome and waters down its final message, it becomes evident that the goal of this film is not to reveal injustice or inspire change. This movie is “Indian Social Inequality for Western Dummies” put to the screen.
Because of that, its comparisons with Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” tend to bear down heavily on this film. Of course, “Parasite” is an objectively better film. “Parasite” understands its topic and delivers a portrayal that is not educational but incredibly authentic and unapologetic. However, that does not mean that “The White Tiger” is not an enjoyable experience. It is entertaining enough that it makes you question if there is ever “clean” money.