Starring: Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Rajkummar Rao, Adarsh Gourav, Mahesh Manjrekar and Swaroop Sampat
Director: Ramin Bahrani
By transforming a Booker Prize-winning novel into a gripping screenplay, there are some ingredients for success already weaved into this story of class and culture clash. And, with the likes of popular stars such as Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Rajkummar Rao headlining the cast, it is no wonder this new Netflix release has been making waves.
Balram (Gourav) is a little village boy with big city dreams and certainly shows the intellect to achieve his ambitions as the brightest kid in his local school. But being born into poverty and a large halwai (sweet-making) family led by a domineering matriarch in the form of his paternal grandmother put paid to those dreams quite early on in life. He is forced to quit school and join his brother at the family-run shop, where he half-heartedly completes his daily chores while keeping his ears glued to the ground for a potential career move.
His big break comes in the form of Ashok (Rao), the recently America-returned son of the local don commonly referred to as The Stork (Manjrekar). It is a case of job at first sight for Balram, who is convinced that Ashok is the kind of boss for him and sets about engineering a way of muscling into the lives of his rich would-be benefactors.
Things go fairly smoothly for Balram’s conniving ways as he successful removes a more senior driver in the household to become the lead staffer, driving around Ashok and his Indian American wife Pinky Madam (Chopra Jonas). On the face of it, there seems to be great bonding between the trio as Ashok and Pinky Madam clearly bring a more Americanised view on how to treat their staff, compared to the exploitative and harsh methods of the older generations. However, there is an unexpected incident in store which would completely shake up this seemingly balanced harmony between masters and servant and result in some very deadly consequences.
‘The White Tiger’ is packed with some great moments of pathos and empathy as the story unfolds in retrospect, narrated by the main protagonist. It equally draws in those who are familiar with the major plot shocker, having already read Aravind Adiga’s award-winning novel of the same name, and those with no such pre-warning.
Priyanka Chopra Jonas is very convincing in her role as the well-meaning second-generation Indian migrant who struggles with the clash and caste conflicts that are an everyday reality in the country of her origin. Rajkummar Rao is equally believable with his half-baked American accent as the starry-eyed NRI who is wrapped up in a misplaced sense of fair play. The baddies of the script, Mahesh Manjrekar as the don and Swaroop Sampat as the dubious leader for the poor, stand out with their evil antics and newbie Adarsh Gourav as the clever driver turned rich entrepreneur shows great promise.
All in all, this is a good one to dip into when on the lookout for a well-scripted tale that will engage, surprise and unnerve in equal measure.
*‘iGlobal’ Review Series