India has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Having never visited the country myself, I grew up capturing their fleeting lifestyle and vast religions within films. I was drawn to the chaos, the flourishing of life, of energy and disorder. Not grasping the poverty as a youngster, I clung to their spiritual connectivity compared to Britain. ‘White Tiger’ is a new American Drama directed by Ramin Bahrani, set in a poor Indian village, where a young man chooses to break from his fate of penury, to serve the esteemed riches governing his countries ways. It grasps the honest vision around corrupt working conditions for humans, in our 21st century society.
Audiences have always fallen for a warm-speaking narrator explaining a tale. You’re tied into this adventure by the protagonist Balram Halwai’s voice, honest and comical, his confidence entices you in. In the beginning, you flick back in time, discovering how he came to work as a driver for the esteemed Stork’s family. Balram speaks of the lower class with such disgrace, saying they're trapped like chickens in a coop, not bothering to escape. “India is two countries in one. An Indian of light and an Indian of Darkness. I think a rich man like you knows which one I fall under,” he writes to the Chinesse premier.
What’s different about this film is the personal anger from someone whose enduring it. Two-thirds of people in India live in poverty: 68.8% of the Indian population lives on less than $2 a day. Balram sees this, he feels his misfortune and he wants to overcome this. We aren’t seeing him begging for money on the street, we seem him thriving to change.
As we follow Balham’s upbringing, director Bahrani cleverly shoots multiple suffering faces around Delhi, highlighting the severe fight between poverty and capitalism. It’s a harrowing realisation for viewers fortunate enough to pay a monthly subscription on Netflix, likely the equivalent of these servants' weekly salary.
As an adult, Balram respects his masters Ashok and Pinky. Spending time on business trips, you see the couple treat him with kindness and a relationship binds. Not only is this servant wise, he’s cunning in manipulating his employee's conversations, advancing through the world. Even though he lays below the dirt their mansion is built on, he hears about his career opportunities from eavesdropping between the rooms.
The tale flips on its head around Pinky’s birthday, as she boozes in the nearby nightclub while Balham waits patiently in the four by four. She demands to drive the three of them home, and you’re thrown back to the beginning scene when the car abruptly hits a young girl crossing the road. This is where the film’s power begins to ripple.
As an audience member, you can see Balham’s desperation take charge, covering up his allies' mistakes, until the family ultimately blames him for murder. This unfolds to the watery-eyed servant kissing his master's feet, obtaining no control of his future, like a pet animal being left on the side of the road.
The warm tone is dramatically erased and the fight to survive is mesmerizing. His suspicions of a new driver creep in, as he takes advantage of his master's loneliness without his wife, ultimately murdered Ashok on the side of the road. The scene makes you question your privileged freedom, as you see a harrowing blackhole for many civilians, seeking a portal to liberation through crime.
As the tale wraps up, Balham takes his stolen money to begin a private taxi service for IT firms, becoming a millionaire in 4 years. But as a viewer from the western world, you can’t help but feel the wrestle he’s taken. This storyline performs a unique job at lifting and tarnishing your spirits for the protagonist like a rollercoaster of desire. Balham acknowledges that his remaining family back home were killed, measuring his success in what he made possible, not through fear but desperation, to get out of the cage he was trapped within for eternity.