‘The White Tiger’ Movie Review


I have always been intrigued to watch films that are based on books. It is an exercise to test my imagination and compare it to how the director visualized it. Thus, when Netflix announced ‘The White Tiger, I skimmed through the book again before the film’s release, and I must admit that adaptation holds up well against the book.

Adapted from its namesake book and set in Delhi, The White Tiger is a drama that captures the life of an ordinary village boy Balram (Adarsh Gourav), who designs his own destiny by using his quick-wit, charm, and shrewdness. Born into a poor family, Balram jockeys himself to land a driver’s job for Ashok (Rajkummar Rao) and Pinky (Priyanka Chopra Jonas). As the events unfold, we observe the change in Balram’s character that catapults him to becoming a successful entrepreneur.

Playing the role of the protagonist, Gourav has done an excellent job portraying the character of Balram by has showing us a range of emotions. From acting as a submissive, people-pleaser to a cunning and ruthless individual, Gourav has delivered his best performance to date. Complementing Gourav, we have Chopra & Rao, who play a modern-age ‘American-return’ couple. Chopra does a decent job in as a righteous wife who believes everyone is equal and often questions the dubious practices around her, while Rao is usually at a crossroads between choosing his virtuous, ethical wife and his crooked family. Unlike Ludo or Stree, Rao has somehow failed to own this character in its true essence. While watching the film, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between this film and Slumdog Millionaire with a tinge of Parasite.

Apart from the majestic acting of Gourav, I think two other people are worth mentioning due to their stellar work. Paolo Carnera, the cinematographer, does a brilliant job with the compositions and lighting that adds to the film’s narrative. Lastly, the director and screenplay writer, Ramin Bahrani, has marvelously translated the book to a screenplay worthy of exceptional cinematography. Bahrani spent months in India and visited the places mentioned in the book to maintain the authenticity of the story.

Recognized for making films with an underdog protagonist, Bahrani did not want any well known Bollywood actor to play the role of Balram. For this reason, he decided to go with Gourav, who won him over during his auditions. To prepare for the role, Gourav decided to work anonymously in a remote village in Jharkhand (India) to earn ₹100 a day by washing dishes for 12 hours every day.

If I had one phrase to describe this film, I would say it is a juxtaposition of two contrasting realities we see in today’s society. In one shot, we see the tall skyscrapers that the affluent class lives in and the unhygienic basement that serves as the servant quarters. In another image, we see a tourist performing yoga on the riverbank next to people washing their dirty clothes. Even while we spend time with Balram, we notice a transition from his innate desire to serve, to his manipulative nature.

Although I did feel that the film’s climax was a little rushed, I enjoyed watching a rags-to-riches story of a marginalized person using deceit and getting away with it.

Reviewed by Puneet Ruparel