Director Ramin Bahrani’s adaptation of Aravind Adiga’s eponymous Man Booker Prize winning novel requires you to read between the lines to understand the gravitas of the story
Parasite scored on the class divide. probably like never before. Here is The White Tiger, telling you things that are similar in nature following a similar road, but is still effective. The story is famous, popular, and worthy. The film, however, independent of the nature of the story, works solely on the distinct nature of the screenplay. A film speaking volumes on the class divide, dimensions of a servant with his boss, dialogues on the plight of working class in the largest democracy, and the thin yet thick line between right and wrong- it is to be understood and absorbed with all its symbolisms and connotations intact. Get this- it won’t be liked by all. Just like Parasite. So what if it went to win all major global film awards?
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An ambitious driver for a rich Indian family, Balram Halwai (Adarsh Gourav) uses his wit and cunning to escape from poverty and become a successful entrepreneur.
It is a classic story by Aravind Adiga, with screen adaptation by Bahrani. It is a simple story of an underdog at the outset. While you sign up to watch this one, you should be ready to get one thing right at the deep level of understanding. The story by its very nature is fit for a philosophical yet a contemporary rooted novel. Such stories, when translated onto the screen are unconventional, breaking the norms of a typical movie structure. Devoid of drama and the conventional tropes of narrative, the film brings out its message in a subtle and discreet way. Read between the lines, study meanings in the signs and symbols and only then you are good to go.
It is a story of India. Not because it portrays poverty or the bottom line of the social class strata. But how human nature is portrayed. When in life you understand that nothing is absolutely black or white, then you tend to observe nuances and their hidden intricacies. You then tend to see things from a greater perspective. What it means to be a poor person in a democracy, how to rise up to the situation, what to do when you are constantly abused and exploited, and what happens when the people you thought were good do the same to you, what it means to be a servant and what are the limitations of being a person you are, how important money actually is- are all dots that the film impressively weaves into the fabric of the narrative.
Told primarily through a voice over, the film brims with a treatment that at times may alienate you and often bore you (yes, it may well become dull at places). But what lies at the core of it is the mental psyche of a servant class (as it is termed in our society) who is wanting to come out of the brutalities he faced, not physical. The dialogues are aimed at mocking the system and how it is divided by its very fabric and also to work as a satire for the larger notions at play.
It is a film, only for classes and needs you to remain eternally glued to what the nitty gritties of the plot are. There is loads of money, politics, capitalism hinted at many junctures and behind all this lies how a simple man feels about himself. The film makes you witness some harsh and extreme taken by the protagonist, and by never glorifying his actions, leaves him at your mercy for you to make judgements about him.
The film does get slow at many points in the film. For a good initial 45mins of the film, it doesn’t pick up how it should. Again, because of how the story in the novel is. When it does, you are moved and engrossed. It then again goes back to being slow in its progression, leading to the end point of what seems to be an unreal world. But definitely, it is not. By the time the film ends, you have travelled along with the protagonist so effortlessly, that you can’t help but ponder about his decisions and make an understanding out of it. It is a tricky and twisted end.
Adarsh Gourav is the hero of the film. Undoubtedly. He literally lifts the film on his performance. A class act. seemingly one from a seasoned actor. Look at him closely in each and every frame of this film, and you would want to bow down to him. Deserving all the adulation, he makes sure he tells the world that he is here to stay.
Rajkummar Rao is effortless, as always. He has a supporting role and he comes across as someone you like. He has shades and layers, moods and colours and he lives upto them all. He plays a rich man like an aplomb, something that is not very easy to play on screen.
Priyanka Chopra Jonas, who is also one of the executive producers of the film, has a smaller role looking at the length of the role, but she does give her best shot. She is a great actor, and portrays the affluent Pinky Madam with grace. She has a good heart, and she brings that out by keeping her body language really amicable.
You despise Vijay Maurya for the class act that he has given. Brilliant. Outstanding. He comes seldom on screen, but whenever he does, you are sure to get highly impressed.
Swaroop Sampat and Mahesh Manjrekar are just okay. Underutilised is the word, because they are both good actors, but the plot doesn’t have anything for them as such.
Music by Danni Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans is decent. The film works on its score rather than songs, and that is phenomenally good. There is minimalistic usage of score and that seems just perfect.
Cinematography by Paolo Carnera is an element that makes the film shine beyond what it holds in terms of content. The frames, lighting, angles, shots and the hidden meanings in almost all of them making this film visually mesmerising. Production design by Chad Keith gives you things to adore in terms of lights and colours. Red, purple, green, yellow, and those strokes of fluorescent tubes in certain shots give you a richness within the frames. The story of plight of poverty amid exploitation and dreams is shown stylistically.
Editing by Tim Streeto is satisfactory for the nature and approach of the film. May not work for a large segment of audience, but for cinematic appeal, it feels just right. Dull moments are there, which could be avoided.
If you like cinema as a whole even by a slightest percentage, this film is for you. It’s a show of symbolic story telling. It looks easy to decipher. It is actually not. A good film made out of a good story.