Most movies are made for the sole purpose of entertainment, providing the viewers with a temporary escape from the reality of life. Still, now and then, films about class, race, inequality and social injustice make it to the mainstream, a jarring wake-up call to the reality of the society people sometimes choose to ignore. A strong contender for the most notable film drawing attention to societal issues is the recent Netflix movie White Tiger.
Set in India, the movie tells the story of a young entrepreneur Balram Halwai (played by Adarsh Gourav), who defied all odds to rise to the top Indian society despite being from the lower caste. Rising from the dredges of community, Balram engaged in what he described as the height of entrepreneurial mastery “crime,” conforming to a society where the corrupt are rewarded with vast wealth and influence. He learned the playground rules and surpassed those he met, becoming the top dog of the game.
Released for viewing on Jan 22, the movie became an instant hit, its plot resonating with many people, and just like its storyline, the White Tiger crawled its way to the top of Netflix’s top 10 movies. It was projected to have been viewed by 27 million households in 64 countries. The film was so well received and appreciated that it was nominated for the Oscars award under the “Best Adapted Screenplay category.” The nomination was announced by Bollywood superstar and executive producer Priyanka Chopra. However, White Tiger lost to The Father at the Academy Awards.
Writer-director Ramin Bahrani wrote the screenplay for the movie as an adaptation of author Aravind Adiga’s 2008 Booker Prize-winning novel. Bahrani did not only get an Oscar nomination for the film but the original novel was also dedicated to him by author Aravind Adiga, his classmate back in college at Columbia University. At the time, Bahrani read the early chapters before the book was published, and he instantly loved it. Ten years later, the novel White Tiger is finally adapted for the screen. Its ravishing success gives credence to Adiga’s genius as a writer and applauds Bahrani’s screenplay writing-directing skills.
Bahrani’s other projects include 2007’s Chop Shop and At Any Price. However, the star of White Tiger was its lead actor, a relatively unknown young man, Adarsh Gourav, who blew everyone’s mind with his flawless acting. His perfect depiction of the relatable role of the poor, brown man who emerged on top after dirtying his hands with questionable deeds is a break from the monotony of the film world’s poor and honest characters.
In the movie, Gourav played the survival game, doing whatever it took to climb the ladder to success. The powerful storyline sparked societal discussions about the widening gap between the rich and the poor, how the rich should be held accountable for their actions, and most importantly, questions about whether climbing the social ladder can deprive people of their conscience and empathy.