home that reeks of hunger and sadness, forced to drop out of school before it even started
learning. But, this hipster had a dream, to break free from the shackles of the ‘rooster
coup ‘… to unlearn serfdom and how not to get caught up in feudalism. This social comment is the
retelling Aravind Adiga’s 2008 Man Booker award-winning book of the same name and is so
dark as pitch as funny.
REVIEW: They are butterflies and rainbows for the teacher Balram Halwai in the predetermined village of
Laxmangarh, as a very generous education officer, has chosen you for a better chance in life and
learning in the capital city of Delhi. That is until his father, full of debt and pulling rickshaw
tuberculosis and must walk all night to get to a hospital in two towns south of theirs. He does not
Do it and the boy’s solipsistic grandmother, ironically named Kusum ji (which means safflower), takes him and his older brother out of school to work at the nearby tea shop. When the father was alive, he was tied in servitude to a ruthless feudal lord with old money from the excavation of the coal mines of
Dhanbad – called The Stork (Mahesh V. Manjrekar) – who would extract every penny from the
barely fed, overworked laborers drowning in a mountain of debt to man.
Even at a tender age, desertion is simmering and calls the mindset of remaining faithful to their master to death a ‘chicken coop’ – a state in which generations of oppressed people were brainwashed into believing who, at all costs, must serve and surrender to their masters. But Balram is a charming little rebel in this abandoned family. “I need 300 rupees to learn to drive and I will give it all back,” she begs her grandmother, but the old woman did not move; the master manipulator in him drops the hook of sending his entire salary to the family at the end of each month and voilà! The deal is sealed! The stork’s youngest son, Ashok (Rajkummar Rao) and his interfaith wife, Pinky madam (Priyanka Chopra Jonas), are back in town and looking for a second driver for their car. The true story begins when the less fortunate meet the super lucky and how the clash of these two worlds gives birth to a white tiger, a rare breed, believed to be born once in every generation.
Truth be told, Iranian-American filmmaker Ramin Bahrani’s (’99 Homes’, ‘Men Push Cart’, ‘Fahrenheit 451’) trailer ‘The White Tiger’ did not inspire much enthusiasm and made us believe that it is just another Dramatic account of an outsider’s understanding of India. Which is an extension of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ without that million dollar question – the poor will be glorified and the rich demonized – and long, wide b-rolls of hungry bodies and scrawny faces that pop up every now and then to show the ‘ Real poor India. ‘ Incorrect! If anything, ‘The White Tiger’ is a mirror image of what (some may say) has come down to this country, with the privilege of a regular overflow of cash in the hands of a select few (read corrupt), while Those who do not have die to dust because, unfortunately, they are born poor, they remain poor, they learn to live poor and die poor. But, in the world of Bahrani, an intriguing and annoying little rat called “the rich Indian” is no different from a helpless poor Indian trying to survive. Balram’s humble upbringing may have played a role in asking for a pay cut ‘as it was too much for him’, but it is this same man who employed cacophony, deception and became a cheeky puppet to get the job he thought he would it would change its destiny.
The protagonist of Bahrani is a boiling pot, ready to drain at the slightest provocation. But,
there is an internal tension within him that he must silence; on the one hand, it is dedicated to his
employer and his abusive family with loyalty of soldier and in another, his prying eyes often
in the greedy animal inside, where you have these intense romantic moments with that bag full of
cash Ashok goes in and out of various government offices. “Do we hate our masters behind
a facade of love, or do we love them behind a facade of hate? he questions himself. More often
no, submission nullifies gluttony. The narrative is an amalgam of class distinction,
along with the castes that our nation has been plagued with for centuries, while politics and corruption
politicians paint the backdrop to this social drama with catharsis.
Before Balram could even think of being an entrepreneur, a political woman from ‘chota jaat’ –
ingeniously called ‘The Great Socialist’ – he has risen through the ranks, and must quench his insatiable
thirst to roll to the other side of the fence. “If only one man could spit out his past so easily”,
he jokes, while brushing his teeth after being reprimanded for, well, just trying to get by. True
Wen Jiabao, the then Chinese Prime Minister, is planning a visit to India and must tell him everything in a letter:
his difficulties and how he catapulted himself to success, but more importantly, how he became the target
tiger of his generation. “America is yesterday, the future is India and China,” Balram speaks sweetly
The close-up of the film made us laugh: after all, only in Bollywood does a frame freeze.
and go back in time to tell the story as it unfolded. As we go along, the lines begin to blur.
The feudal lord becomes family as the self-righteous abandon the facade as life throws them under a
excavator. Balram is the gossip on the table among his peers: “People talk about you …
that you’ve been muttering things to yourself, ”reports Vitiligo (Nalneesh Neel). Balram doesn’t bother; he just wants to be rich. Not sane, not moral, just rich. The narrative benefits from the dark comedy treatment, as almost every other character imparts a Sadhguru-level philosophy. “You have been looking for the key for years. But the door was always open, ”says Mrs. Pinky. In the initial moments of utter naivety, when the sadism of a big city lifestyle smiled from afar, Balram protests when Vitiligo questions the integrity of his life. malik, “Sir. Ashok doesn’t do any of these things. He’s a good man.” “He is a good man?” Vitligo yells, “He’s a rich man!” The cold look in Vitiligo’s eyes betrays his hopelessness towards life and those who rule the game.
Adarsh Gourav was not a household name when this movie was announced, but we assume that he is
about to change. The actor has a predilection for intricate details and it shows: interpreting that colloquial
North Indian accent, gestures of a troubled person and that of a man who was once innocent
and immune to the darkness of the world. Although you are consistently inconsistent like Balram, you
know, coming out like a madman who concocts deadly plans through loud monologues, and also comes out
to his master’s mansion to apply oil to his hair carefully masking his horrible plans – Adarsh has
He devoured Balram with childish sincerity. On several occasions, the actor does drop the accent
and speak English fluently, but those moments are very rare and don’t really distract from another
Rajkummar Rao’s Ashok is a money man who has not been given a crash course in life – shark in
political deals and distribution of bribes, lonely in love. Priyanka Chopra Jonas is, like Balram’s
character correctly evaluates, the one who does not care about social traditions. Her character Pinky is
the rebel in a family that does not do rebellion well. Both Rao and Priyanka embody that class of men.
who pressure themselves to be nice to the lower class. Why? Because they are polite and it is
the right thing to do (until it’s not). These two excellent artists slip into the skin of their
respective roles and act as a catalyst for the big, explosive climax that we knew was coming but not
In a film of this stature, where the writing is tense and the dialogue memorable, giving a witty
The conclusion is a huge task. But we tried. The final shot shows a boastful Balram breaking the
fourth wall and with those penetrating eyes full of rage, he tells us: “I have changed sides. I broke
away from the co-op. “The smile and that air of arrogance are self-explanatory: no, Balram is not a
good man, just rich!