The White Tiger Movie Review: Adarsh Gourav-Priyanka Chopra-Rajkummar Rao’s rags-to-riches story is no Slumdog Millionaire
Mukul Deora, Ramin Bahrani, Prem Akkaraju
Bollywood Bubble Rating
What’s It About
Balram Halwai (Adarsh Gourav) narrates his epic and darkly humorous rise from being a poor villager to a successful entrepreneur in modern India. Cunning and ambitious, our young hero jockeys his way into becoming a driver for Ashok (Rajkummar Rao) and Pinky (Priyanka Chopra-Jonas) who have just returned from America. Society has trained Balram to be one thing — a servant — so he makes himself indispensable to his rich masters. But after a night of betrayal, he realizes the corrupt lengths they will go to trap him and save themselves. On the verge of losing everything, Balram rebels against a rigged and unequal system to rise up and become a new kind of master. Will he succeed in his endeavour? Or will he end up getting caught and being punished for something that he was somehow forced to commit? Well, for that you’ll have to watch the movie.
Adarsh Gourav pulls in a performance of a lifetime. If he had not already wowed us with his performance in My Name Is Khan, he once again pulls in a nuanced and measured portrayal of an underprivileged youngster wanting to make it big for himself in life. Adarsh stands tall and doesn’t bat an eyelid while performing alongside actors like Rajkummar Rao, Priyanka Chopra, Mahesh Manjrekar, Vijay Maurya, Kamlesh Gill, etc. He is the young wonder, and not just is his look perfect, but even his eyes speak the rags-to-riches story. Superb!
Rajkummar Rao may have had a smaller screen time but he sure walks off as the modern-day Shah Rukh Khan from Swades, who wants to do good and make the country proud but also knows that without bribery nothing is going to move forward at the government offices. Rajkummar delivers and honest portrayal of a guy who’s stuck between the cacophony of corrupt caste politics and his high standard education from the US. He wants to stand up and make himself heard and wants to do the right thing, but it’s his politically-inclined family which does things in a different way in this country. Rajkummar manages to bring that balance perfectly all the while trying to be a loving husband to Priyanka Chopra and a great Boss to Adarsh Gourav. Not one of his bests, but surely something which stands out in the movie.
The story by Arvind Adiga is a sure masterpiece. It has already a New York bestseller for years, and almost the entire English-speaking world has read it, but when you present it onscreen, there is still an ounce of wanting to expect something out of the blue. But does that happen in Ramin Bahrani’s screenplay?
As I mentioned before the story of Arvind Adiga is good, but it’s Ramin Bahrani’s screenplay and direction that let down the movie. This could have been a great rags-to-riches story with pinches of reality spread all over, but sadly it becomes snoozefest towards the middle. Also, let me just put it out there – This is no Slumdog Millionaire. That movie had a lot more of thrill factor, which sadly is missing here. The constant narration of this story by Adarsh Gourav makes you believe at the start itself that all is going to get well at the end. Had it not been made so obvious, the thrill to know what’s going to happen of the lead character would make you want to reach the end sooner. But here it’s pretty predictable. You’re expecting the film to end with a dark and heart-pumping finale after what the story has made you careen through, but it somehow doesn’t come up with that impact, and that makes the movie fall flat.
The editing by Tim Streeto could have been a lot crisper. Director Ramin Bahrani should have pulled the strings at some places and said no to the film being stretched to proportions it shouldn’t have had been. There will be scenes in the middle where you would be wondering why has this been shown for such a long time. People travelling in trains or changing trains need not been shown for almost 57-seconds just to make a point as to how long the journey way. You could have easily cut out such parts and made the story a lot shorter.
Then there is Priyanka Chopra. Ever since Priyanka Chopra has stepped into the west, she has been picking up characters which have a great impact on the storyline of the movie. She has done that in The Sky Is Pink, A Kid Like Jake and a few others as well. But sadly in The White Tiger, even though her character is pivotal to the plot, she barely has screentime to flaunt the genius of an actor she is. Had her character been more present onscreen, the movie wouldn’t have had started dragging that much in the initial parts of the second half. It seems Ramin Bahrani wasn’t able to get the best out of the Desi Girl.
Stellar actors like Mahesh Manjrekar and Vijay Maurya have been given so small roles that you’ll feel it would have been better to have any junior artiste do that part. Why their characters stopped going to collect money from the villagers hasn’t been clarified which leaves you hanging for some clarity. Kamlesh Gill has been once again handed an old grandma role, however, its never explained as to why she is constantly so angry with her grandkids, and why she wants to control their lives in such a Hilter-way. Had things been made clearer, it would have made more sense.
Lastly, the music by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans is barely even there and when you’re telling an Indian story, you’re supposed to have at least fed the audience with something even if it’s just in the form of a background score. We didn’t have to listen to late 2000s Punjabi songs being played on the car stereo in full volume just to justify the fact that the story is set in that era.
The White Tiger is a great rags-to-riches story, sprinkled with ample ounces of what real India looks like, but sadly what lets the film down is the pane through which it’s seen. It’s a westerner’s view of it all, and it misses out on the subtleties that such a story might need. In simple terms, it’s no Slumdog Millionaire, and Ramin Bahrani hasn’t been able to pull off a Danny Boyle. Had the editing been a bit crisper, probably the movie would have had not been lousy in the middle. Still, overall, it’s a ONE-TIME WATCH. I am going with 2.5 stars, with an extra star just for Adarsh Gourav’s fantastic portrayal.