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The White Tiger: A rags-to-riches story targeting social injustice

Taing Rinith / Khmer Times Share:
Adarsh Gourav plays Balram in Netflix’s new film The White Tiger. Netflix

When the American-Indian film The White Tiger was released on Netflix, it did not take long for the “social issue drama” to shoot to the top. It would have been unusual if it had not, given the film’s extraordinary provocation as well as impressive cinematography and acting.

As a child from a lower-caste family in the underdeveloped town of Laxmangarh, India, Balram Halwai is supposed to go and study in Delhi on a scholarship thanks to his advanced English and literacy skills. However, instead he is forced to go to work at a tea house when his father is not able to pay the village landlord. His father soon after dies of tuberculosis and Balram never returns to school, but he still finds another way to pull himself out of poverty.

When he grows up, Balram manages to get a job with the landlord as the personal driver for his son Ashok, who has just returned from the US with his New Yorker wife Pinky. Ashok and Pinky, unlike other members of the high-class family, treat Balram with respect despite his low caste and even grow close to him after having be with him alone in Delhi. On one fateful night, a hit-and-run accident changes life forever. It is bad for Balram at first, but little does he know that the accident will be the door to the life he has always been seeking.

The White Tiger is based on the debut novel of the same name by Indian-Australian author Aravind Adiga, which uses first-person narration to tell a rags-to-riches story of a poor, uneducated man who uses street smarts to find opportunity in a society dominated by the traditional caste system and corruption. Balram is featured in the film as an innocent boy who grows to become an opportunist, using the knowledge he absorbs from every part of his life.

While such a concept may not be revolutionary, the cinematography makes it a zestful masterpiece. The screenplay gives The White Tiger sky-scraping levels of thrills and suspense throughout Balram’s journey. The plot is lively and vividly brought to life by Adarsh Gourav, who plays Balram, with a natural and well-acted performance despite his lack of experience. Although the rest of the cast do a great job, it is most likely Gourav who will be made an international star by this film.

The initial description may make viewers who have not seen The White Tiger expect it to resemble Slumdog Millionaire. However, in contrast, it is nowhere near that, given (spoiler alert) the former’s debatably tragic ending. However, like Slumdog Millionaire, The White Tiger is definitely a mind-blowing motion picture based in India.

Yet, due to some controversial elements of film, especially the “eventual way” the protagonist chooses to get out of his poverty, it is undoubtedly unsuitable for children.

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