Netflix review: A star is born in thrilling 'The White Tiger'

Fred Hawson

Posted at Jan 24 2021 08:49 AM

A scene from 'The White Tiger' 

Balram Halwai (Adarsh Gourav) grew up in a poor village, but his burning ambition made him leave his family to go find his fortune in the city. Because of his glib tongue and charming country bumpkin ways, he applied and was accepted to be the driver of the American-bred son of a rich Hindu family, Ashok (Rajkummar Rao) and his wife Pinky (Priyanka Chopra-Jonas), who treated him like family.

However, one fateful night, just when Balram thought he did his masters a great service, they repaid him with a detestable act of cruel treachery instead. This painful event triggered in Balram a serious evaluation of how he was being treated and how dispensable he was to them. Relying on his wits and daring, Balram staged his bold plan to emancipate himself out of the "rooster coop" he was trapped in.

Twenty-six year-old Adarsh Gourav certainly broke through into widespread recognition with his star-making lead performance in this film. Even if he shared the screen with Bollywood superstars Rao and Chopra-Jonas, Gourav took this challenging bull of a role by the horns and rode it triumphantly all the way from the gutter to the peak. He imbued this flawed character with a winsome charisma that made viewers root him on to achieve his dream.

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Since the film began with Balram as a rich entrepreneur narrating his harrowing rise to his present situation, we knew he would overcome his poverty at one point. Throughout the film, we were just waiting for that climactic turning point to happen, the event which would change his fortune forever. The build-up to that critical moment had very engaging, with its darkly comic yet entertaining approach to the serious message. 

However, I was shocked when that climactic turning point came. To be completely frank, I did NOT like it at all. Are the filmmakers telling us that only with such harsh radical action can a poor man ever hope to cross the chasm between the social classes over to the other side? Has the world already reached that level of desperate cynicism where honest labor and perseverance don't matter anymore? I would like to think it should not be the case. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."

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