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The White Tiger Movie Review - Rags To Glitches

The actors smoothen the bumpy bits in The White Tiger. 


What are servants but surrogates for housewives. A partner performing daily chores while the husband works at the office. In Rohena Gera's superb Sir, the maid is literally placed in the shoes of his employer's to-be wife. It transpired in a beautiful yet heartbreaking romance. In contrast, Ramin Bahrani goes to a slightly different route and asks: What if this other "housewife" became possessive? Given the way servants are usually treated with contempt, what if one day they decide that they have had enough with the lack of respect and appreciation given to their dedication? You know, like the wife who got slapped in Thappad. She went for divorce though the servant — after being neglected for pouring his heart out for you — may go for your...life!

The White Tiger opens with rash driving. Sitting in the driver's seat is Pinky (Priyanka Chopra Jonas), overly drunk and not in the best state to handle a moving vehicle. Beside her is the equally befuddled husband named Ashok (Rajkummar Rao). The one with a sane mind is sitting in the backseat. He is Balram Halwai (Adarsh Gourav). In this particular moment, he appears as "one of them" — rich and a friend of the couple in the front seats. While husband and wife busy themselves with a duet, Balram catches sight of Gandhi's statue and, after a few distances, a poor family resting on the road. The India-Pakistan is not the only partition remaining. Another division still exists: rich and poor. This is one way of interpreting this opening. Late-night drinking and driving have never gone well for the oofy (and some celebrities). This one, too, stops with a disaster, the nature of which is not so hard to guess.

Told through the voice and lens of Balram (as he writes an e-mail to the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao; it's absurd), The White Tiger takes us into the slums of Laxmangarh - the hometown of Balram. As a child, he was the sole speaker of English in his entire class. He conjectured that the right opportunity could strike anywhere and anytime. All he needs to do is keep a sharp ear. On a lazy afternoon, the sound of his chance arrives in the form of Ashok. His type of entry is customarily reserved for sultry heroines who are introduced as they seductively get out of the car. It fits for Ashok as Balram sees him as a prize. He wants to win him over at any cost. Lucky him as a driver is needed in the family, and Balram seizes this option by learning how to drive. 

Once inside the premises, Balram competes to inch closer towards Ashok. For now, he is the second driver. His constant search for luck updates him on a secret on the first driver, which he plays in his favor when he craves to go with Ashok to Delhi. Note that Balram is not pure evil. He feels terrible for his actions and the consequences they bring. He desires to give a hug to the first driver and wishes to reverse his unethical measures. Nevertheless, Balram knows it's a competitive world. Sometimes, you have to play dirty or be dead. 

In Delhi, Ashok's masters stay in the luxury of glittery yellow lights while he rests in the gloomy blues of the garage. The other attendants are not so kind to him. Whatever affection he receives comes from Ashok and Pinky. The latter is the most generous of them all. She raises her voice when Ashok's relatives misbehave with Balram. Ashok, too raises concerns, but he does not spit fire like Pinky. This doesn't mean Ashok and Pinky treat him as an equal. They scold Balram when he does a thing inappropriately. For example, serving tea to guests while scratching his groins or forcing someone to eat a dish. Ashok and Pinky act humanly. They are presented as someone aware of the boundary that places them opposite to Balram. As for Balram, he wants to cross this boundary. He wants to be a member of their family. 

The initial portions — up to the accident — move with a vibrancy. A reason for it is Balram's excitement of finding a new aim in his life. He is active, he is lively, and he is ready to impress. He goes on to open the car door for his master even when he declines the offer. Soon Balram faces reality, turning his goodness into a facade of fake pleasantries. The tone becomes grim; the mood slows down a bit. His suppressed emotions, spawned from some unpleasant treatments, threaten to explode. They do, of course. This is something we are told in the beginning. Someone will die, all right. The doubt is, when? There is a release as Balram commits the murder, allowing both the tone and the character to take a breath. It's then you register how suffocated you were a few minutes before and also that The White Tiger is a slow-burn thriller about the rise of a killer identity. 

If only The White Tiger had ended here. But we also have the present Balram as the boss of taxi service. The concept of success by stomping over others is not new and could make for a gritty drama. Unfortunately, the "success" part a.k.a "boss of a taxi service" aspect, does not jell in the film. It needed better segue or could have been removed, saving us from dispensable explanations. I would have been more than happy to accept a (serial) killer origin story. But that's just me. The breaking of the fourth wall in the final scene is fatuous. Another scene where Balram's "dad" appears on a cycle to shed an inspiration is vacuous. What keeps you going is a fine Adarsh Gourav who chews up the screen with his captivating presence. He could put a smile on his face and come at you with one hand behind his back, and you could never guess if he's holding a flower or a gun in his hand. His unpredictability makes this predictable tale watchable till the end.      

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from Movie Reviews https://moviesinmydna.blogspot.com/2021/01/the-white-tiger-movie-review-rags-to.html
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