The White Tiger
Aravind Adiga’s best-selling novel is adapted for the screen in the darkly funny feature of the same name, The White Tiger. Set in India, the film follows the journey of a genius who, despite being trapped in a system of prejudice and poverty, breaks free from servitude, eventually rising above his rich masters. Throughout its two-hour run time, the movie makes damning comments on power, class disparity and complicated resentful affection between the oppressor and oppressed. The latest project from writer-director Rami Bahrani, this adaptation takes the book’s slow but solid narrative and pairs it with realistic cinematography, creating a striking depiction of modern India in a globalised world.
The White Tiger continually describes life in India like a chicken coop: a cage full of submission where repression is accepted, and freedom is considered abnormal. Balram (Adarsh Gourav) has always been unsatisfied in his small village and, in an effort to escape the same fate as his brother and father, decides to become the driver for a wealthy and corrupt family. However, despite trying to be a model employee, he is continually pushed into hatred and starts to plot his escape from the intangible confinement in order to survive. The film’s script presents complex relationship dynamics that shed light on the nation’s caste system and draws attention to the layered human emotions in a class-driven society. Bahrani expertly directs a strong narrative where the protagonist’s emotional arc of realising his unjust fate is front and centre, evoking feelings of heartbreak, rage and incredible authenticity simultaneously.
Despite all the metaphors and strong direction, the movie is incredibly slow-paced. It only picks up in its second half, resulting in its framing devices seeming useless at times. Although detailed, Balram’s feelings are often repeated, and the lack of urgency at the start stilts the picture tonally. Due to Gourav’s remarkable performance, it is often easy to overlook the script’s long-windedness, as his acting captivates attention. Still, the realistic and dynamic portrayal is not enough to shake the lulls of boredom presented throughout The White Tiger.
There is something special revealed in Bahrani’s representation of India, with its duality, realistic streets and struggle. Although the adaptation could have been more compact and concise, The White Tiger is memorable and definitely worth a watch.
The White Tiger is released digitally on demand on 22nd January 2021.
Watch the trailer for The White Tiger here: