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Film Review: The White Tiger (2021)

IMDb Link: The White Tiger (2021)
Director: Ramin Bahrani
Writer: Ramin Bahrani
Starring: Priyanka Chopra-Jonas, Rajkummar Rao, Adarsh Gourav
Based on: The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

Synopsis: The epic journey of a poor Indian driver who must use his wit and cunning to break free from servitude to his rich masters and rise to the top of the heap.

This is a film that I have ended up being quite conflicted on. There is so much good within it, starting with the concept of the story. There have been many tales told about the poverty split and trying to climb up in the system, but this story is smart in how it makes the audience believe what is happening. It is easy to connect to the driver Balram (played by Gourav) and want him to succeed, even with all the mayhem that surrounds him.

It is not only his character that is well-written, but the couple played by Chopra-Jonas and Rao. The film starts by setting up their beliefs and background, particularly with Chopra-Jonas’s character Pinky, and develops a sub-plot with her that is compelling and yet shocking for American audiences. The film is bold in telling these stories about the poverty and gender equality issues that lie within India even to this day, and yet framing it around driving – something that seems normal for many of us, but is another situation within India.

In terms of the structure of the film, the story starts and ends with a bang. With strong narrative beats, sharp editing that gets the point across quickly and in an entertaining manner, and wonderful world-building, it is easy to get sucked into the story and to immediately care about our lead characters and where they end off. There are also moments within the middle section of the film which instantly grab your attention and draw into the emotional aspect of the stories, going in a direction that I certainly did not expect this story to take.

For how well these three main characters are written, it is disappointing that the rest of the couple’s family is lacking in any character development or motivation. Whilst there are side characters that were well done, the two families of the lead characters are left to purely exist for a narrative purpose. There is an emotional narrative based on Balram’s family, and yet it is hard to care about them when they merely exist in dream sequences and flashbacks. In terms of the couple’s family, they are purely stereotypical and bland, unable to make any impact when they share a majority of scenes with our three leads. I always just wanted to continue on a road trip with our lead characters, as that is where this film shines.

This is a film that could have effectively told its story within a sharp 90 minutes, especially with how sharp the editing is at the start and end of the film. Instead, the editing slows down in the middle and it became easy to lose interest in what is happening. Whilst the writing is smart enough to give the audience moments within these slower sequences to perk themselves up and continue to care about the characters and their situation, I do wish the narrative moved a little quicker to get to that wonderful final third.

This is a film that I want to perhaps watch again in the near future, or even give the book a read. There is so much potential with this story, particularly with the location it is shot in and the messages that are contained within it. The film sadly slows down a little too much for my liking and there is not enough to keep me connected, but it is hard to deny that when this film works, it works incredibly well.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The White Tiger is available to watch on Netflix on the 22nd of January.

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