"The White Tiger" stars Adarsh Gourav, Rajkummar Rao, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Mahesh Manjrekar, and Nalneesh Neel. Released on Netflix on January 22, 2021, the film follows a young man's journey to becoming an entrepreneur.
The film was written and directed by Ramin Bahrani, who also directed films such as "Chop Shop", "Plastic Bag", "99 Homes", and "Fahrenheit 451". It is an adaptation of the 2008 novel of the same name by Arvind Adiga. It's no surprise that with every person's rise to power lies an unbelievable story behind this journey, whether they're uplifting, tragic, crazy, or even all of the above. This story appears to be no different. This latest film from Netflix takes audiences to the world of modern India in hopes of continuing its never-ending quest to release films representing different cultures on the service. They got the Japanese-related content covered, most notably the ones from the anime department, so why not show the ones from India some love as well? I only heard about this film from the poster I saw on the Internet and nothing else. Usually, I watch the trailers for the upcoming movies to get an idea of what to expect from their presentations, but I decided to go in blind to challenge myself a little bit for this film. It worked for "Pieces of a Woman", so indeed it will work for "The White Tiger" as well. Here's hoping that would be the case.
Set in India, the film follows Balram Halwai (Gourav), a poor villager working to pay off the village landlord known as The Stork (Manjrekar). He eventually gets himself a job as a private driver for his upper-class masters Ashok (Rao), The Stork's son, and his wife Pinky (Chopra Jonas). During his time as a servant, Balram goes on a personal journey to battle the rigged system, break free from the life of slavery, and rise to the top. The film represents the fundamentals of India's caste system, similar to how the class system works in other countries like the United States. Additionally, it explores some other topics like loyalty, corruption, and poverty. Those themes, combined with Bahrani's thought-provoking script, helped portray a rags-to-riches story that may feel familiar to some people but had enough uniqueness and interest in its storytelling to roar its way to success. Ramin Bahrani has crafted a gorgeous-looking drama that matches the appeal of its invigorating plot, its provocative topics, and its darkly humorous tone. It's also well-paced and lively enough to maintain my attention despite it being a bit too long. It just goes to show that not every film with realistic subject matters needs to be a grim and slow-burning experience. After appearing in a few small Hindi films as a supporting character, Adarsh Gourav finally took center stage in his first leading role as Balram Halwai, and he did not disappoint. His performance was not only fun to witness, but it's also wholly engaging in terms of his dramatic scenes. Rajkummar Rao and Priyanka Chopra Jonas also delivered some impressive performances as Ashok and Pinky, respectively, with Chopra Jonas's performance being the best of her career so far, in my opinion. I would also give the film credit for its captivating cinematography, especially with how it captured some of its beautiful Indian sceneries. What can I say? I'm a sucker for breathtaking sceneries in international countries. The best part is that it's extremely cheaper. What I also liked about the film was its cultural representation. Not just in front of the camera, but behind it as well. I thought the filmmakers did a great job presenting this culture and its traditions respectably and honestly. Most of the people from Indian heritage involved also helped with the film's accuracy. I think if only American filmmakers made a film like this, the final result wouldn't be as stellar as what we got now. So kudos to Hollywood for sticking with that strategy.
Overall, "The White Tiger" claws its way to the top by delivering a well-told and gorgeously-shot tale about a young man's transformation from a poor boy to a servant to an entrepreneur. The story has some small issues with its familiarity and runtime. Still, Ramin Bahrani's execution towards the plot has the right amount of interest and energy to make it the first great film of 2021 in my eyes. Thanks to its marvelous cast, Bahrani's script and direction, its cultural representation, and its breathtaking cinematography, the film was able to find success in all of the right places. If dramas set in India are your thing, you might get some enjoyment from this film.