Released: 22nd January
Seen: 23rd April
One thing I’ve noticed about reviewing is that I don’t tend to do a lot of foreign films. “Foreign” in this context tends to mean “Films that aren’t made in Australia, England or America” because for some reason films from those countries never get considered “foreign films” . I believe the last time I did a film that was not from one of those countries might be when Parasite came out.
Now, I do hope in the future to fix this but part of the problem here is access, some foreign films just never make it down here or they cost so much that I can’t get hold of them… fortunately for me, Netflix is getting better at making films with other countries. Apparently so good that their film The White Tiger has an Oscar nomination, meaning it’s time for me to frantically catch up on an Oscar pick that feels a little reminiscent of a previous winner.
The White Tiger follows Balram Halwai (Adarsh Gourav), a member of the Indian underclass who is desperate to try and get out of his current class status. He ends up taking on a job as the driver for the wealthy Shah family, largely driving around his master Ashok Shah (Rajkummar Rao) and Ashok’s wife Pinky Shah (Priyanka Chopra Jonas).
While the job doesn’t pay much it gives Belram a glimpse of how the upper class live, and how they treat those below them. When a horrible accident occurs and the Shah family attempt to pin the blame on Balram, it begins a chain of events that will push Balram into finding a way to break out of his class status and be better than those who he served.
The White Tiger is one of those films that enjoys playing with you, taking twists and turns when it feels like it and keeping the audience on their toes. It does this wonderfully, the story just moves at a brisk pace and just when you think you’ve worked out where things are heading it’ll throw something out at you and change where things are going.
If I were to compare this movie to anything it would be Parasite, it shares so much with that film in terms of concepts and plot that it’s hard to avoid. They might not be identical, there’s enough substantial difference between them to keep things interesting but the core idea of someone lower class who uses any means to get up that class ladder goes between them, and much like Parasite this film is really really good.
While there is a large cast of characters, The White Tiger really just revolves around Balram, Ashok and Pinky who are absolutely fascinating characters. Ashok and Pinky in particular are great as people who seem to think they treat those who work for them well, but in the end don’t really care that much about them and would be willing to throw them under a bus if needed. It’s a fascinating power dynamic played brilliantly by all involved.
Adarsh Gourav in particular gives nothing short of a star-making performance, able to blend pathos and comedy with a dark undertone that slowly turns into an overtone by the end. It’s incredible to watch him work, it’s a performance that should get him drowning in offers from every corner of the globe. He basically has to carry the entire film on his shoulders and makes it seem effortless.
The White Tiger is so tight and well constructed that there isn’t a single second that feels wasted. The script is impressive, filled with snappy dialogue and full of rich interesting characters who really sell this story. If Parasite did it for you and you want something similar, this is a great film to fill that need.