A review of the new film “The White Tiger”

Inevitably, this film will be compared with “Slumdog Millionaire”. Both tell the story of a young man’s rise in urban India; both are based on novels by Indian writers: both have Western directors.

But “Slumdog” – while including some tough elements – was ultimately a feel-good rom-com with a message of redemption, while “Tiger” is a darker film with more violence and a lack of morality in its narrative. Both unashamedly show the poverty in India, but “Tiger” underlines the caste basis of much of this poverty and the systematic corruption of the political and business worlds of this flawed democracy.

In an impressive performance, Adarsh Gourav plays the lowest-caste villager Balram Halwai who manages a spectacular rise to successful entrepreneur, initially using obsequiousness and cunning, but later deploying much more hard-hitting methods. In being the very rare creature who escapers from destitution, he is the white tiger – or, if you like, the black swan – of the title.

American-born director and writer Ramin Bahrani has done an excellent job in making a commercial film about what is essentially a political critique of modern India which manages to combine humour and excitement with darkness and even death. The colours and sounds of vibrant India are very much on display and there is some clever camerawork in a tale which is always enthralling.


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