On 22nd January this year, The White Tiger released on Netflix in India. It had already released worldwide on 13th January.
I was eagerly anticipating the movie once I caught a glimpse of the trailer. I’d read the book of the same name (which is the basis for the movie), when it came out in 2008 and won the Booker Prize the same year. Confession: I don’t read every book that wins the prize, though I do try. Some of them I found difficult to read (ahem! I mean like Wolf Hall!), but not this one. The language is quite accessible, and the writing style highly engrossing. Despite reading it so long ago, I hadn’t forgotten the fundamentals of the story.
I admire movies like this one, which adhere faithfully to their source material.
The movie, like the book, is told in flashback. We see the world through the eyes of the protagonist, Balram Halwai. He is born poor in a small village, but he’s smart enough to pick up English. He’s chosen to attend school in Delhi, but his father dying of TB prevents this scheme, and he’s forced to toil in the tea shop.
Determined to break out of what he calls the rooster coop, he learns driving and moves to Delhi, to become a driver for his landlord’s son, Ashok, played by Rajkummar Rao. Priyanka Chopra Jonas doubles up as executive producer and Ashok’s wife Pinky.
Rajkummar Rao, known for playing more gritty roles, looks somewhat out of place in this feature. In an earlier life I’d have expected him to bag the role of the driver. But he manages to pull off a convincing accent of an Indian returned from the US. Priyanka’s accent sounds a tad more natural these days than when she started off in Quantico all those years ago.
But the performance that glues you to the screen is Adarsh Gourav, who plays Balram Halwai. Both as driver and later as ‘entrepreneur’, he struck me as a natural. His character delivers unintentionally funny lines, and captures the frustration of his ilk quite accurately.
He veers between being funny, creepy and sometimes scary, and pulls off all the shades smoothly.
I won’t state any spoilers here, just suffice it to say that midway through the movie, his tale takes a darker turn, and Balram warns you of it himself.
As you can imagine, I enjoyed the movie immensely and will be watching it again for sure. If you’re looking for a serious movie with elements of dark humour and pathos, this is it.
Have you seen this movie? Or do you have any other recommendations to make?