The White Tiger starring Priyanka Chopra Jonas is a must-watch Netflix movie

The White Tiger - Credit: Netflix
The White Tiger - Credit: Netflix /

The White Tiger is already being praised as Netflix’s first great film of 2021 and with ratings of 90% (critics) and 82% (audience) from Rotten Tomatoes at the time of this writing, the masses seem to agree.

The Netflix movie tells you the end at the beginning. Even then, I would still say that the trailer gives away too much. The White Tiger follows Balram (Adarsh Gourav) as he works his way up from the slums of his village in India to becoming a successful entrepreneur.

At the start of the movie, we meet the successful Balram and he begins telling his story.

We get a hard look at Indian culture and a heavy-handed display of the caste system. For those unfamiliar, the caste system is a sort of hierarchical approach to determining someone’s status. It is technically outlawed but is still used to determine someone’s status in different parts of India. There are technically thousands of castes but The White Tiger breaks it down to high caste and low caste to keep it simple.

The White Tiger is a must-watch on Netflix

Balram comes from a low caste family. His education stopped when he was a young boy because he needed to work. When we meet young Balram he is one of the smartest kids in his class and he is told that he is “The White Tiger,” the symbol for someone that only comes around once in a generation. This sticks with him and motivates him to try to be more than his surroundings have told him he should be. A fate we see his brother resign himself to.

Balram takes the first step of leaving his town and learning how to drive, then approaching the wealthy landlord who collects money from his village to become one of their drivers. These moves show ambition, but for the majority of the film, that drive disappears as Balram seems to accept that this life of servitude (which also comes with abuse) is what his life should be. Compared to his family, he is successful, and being a servant is all he knows.

This is where the “rooster coop” message comes in. While Balram is telling his story he compares the life of servitude to the way roosters act in a slaughterhouse. He said that the butcher works right in front of all of the roosters. They watch him grab one of them, cut them up and they know they’re next but they don’t try to do anything about it.

When bringing it back to the mentality of lower caste citizens, he says:

"“You can place the key of emancipation in a man’s hand, and he will throw it back at you with a curse.”"

This line was deep and spoke to me in several ways. He’s very clear about trying to keep his message to addressing life in India, but there are very clear parallels to life in the West as well. In America for example, those at the bottom fight against policies that would increase taxes on the wealthy or increase the minimum wage. Whereas in India, the lower caste is taught to embrace a life of servitude, here we’re taught to embrace a life of struggle.

In some ways, The White Tiger reminded me of the Jake Gyllenhaal film Nightcrawler. There are elements of the story that are funny and meant to be. There are things about the character and the situation that they end up in that are funny, but the reality around them is not funny and things go dark quickly.

Watching Balram be abused, you spend most of the film wondering how he gets from being a driver to being a successful businessman. We know that there has to be some dramatic event but the film does a great job of keeping you guessing until they want you to know. That’s where starting at the end plays into their plans because they want you thinking about those early scenes throughout the rest of the movie. It makes the end of the movie that much more dramatic.

The acting and the cast in this film were great. Adarsh Gourav in the lead role can be convincing as the undereducated help and the successful businessman. The White Tiger also gives us Priyanka Chopra (Quantico) as the Americanized wife of Balram’s boss. Her role as Pinky Madam serves to show Balram that he doesn’t have to accept the traditions and customs that he was raised on.

The run time is just over two hours which may be a bit long to some. The movie keeps you riveted though, and by telling you the end at the beginning they give you something to look forward to. Waiting for an answer to a question is easy as long as you feel like you’re building to it the entire way.

You can watch The White Tiger on Netflix now to see what the hype is about. 

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