White Tiger Discussion Space

I really really don’t want to see this movie. So, I’m not gonna! No matter how much you ask me to! But I will put up a post space for those of you who did see it to discuss.

Talk away! Who was the best actor?

What other movies would you compare it to?

What were the big social statements?

Can you briefly summarize the plot for those of us (like me) who really don’t want to see this movie?

Would you call it more of a western movie or an Indian movie in style?

40 thoughts on “White Tiger Discussion Space

  1. I boycott all things Priyanka so I won’t be seeing it either. I hate that Anupama praises all things Priyanka and pans all things Shah Rukh. (that’s not why I hate her)

    Like

    • I don’t boycott PC exactly, but I certainly have a hard time enjoying watching her onscreen and it makes it difficult for me to enjoy her movies.

      Like

  2. Acting was top notch-Adarsh and PC did justice to their characters.RR unexpectedly turned out to be a misfit.
    But getting on the political correctness side of the film,the foreign gaze was hard to miss.The fact that they never mentioned the wiping out of colonies to make space for the elites of Lutyens Delhi bothered me.Not to get started on the myopic understanding of caste as class.In one scene it is said that there are only two castes-big bellied and small bellied.They forget the dehumanization faced by castes forced into manual scavenging,castes not allowed into temples,castes given to eat in separate utensils.This is like explaining racism through the Parasite template,ignoring that Parasite was strictly about class divide.In attempting to explain caste through class,the movie ignores the religious fundamentalism which sanctions it.

    Like

    • The “big bellies vs small bellies”-quote stems from the novel, so you can’t blame the filmmakers for that (alleged) simplification. And neither the book nor the movie do pretend to be a socioscientifical analysis of the Indian caste system …
      Interesting to know that author and director know each other from their days at the Columbia University in NY.

      Like

      • I would say,it is the movie.The book makes you feel you are walking through the dingy alleys,but the movie makes you an overlooker with a judgemental tone.The cinematography tends to say things which the words avoided in the book.It does get better towards the end though where the thrill takes over the exposition.

        Like

        • Interesting. I guess I saw the judgment as character-specific – of the grandma, for example, or the brother – but I didn’t see the movie as looking down on Adarsh or his father.

          Like

  3. Add to that,the movie offers a very sanitized opinion on the caste system and confuses it with class,which is a correlation but not a causation.Certain castes aren’t considered ‘lower’ because they are poor,they have been treated as ‘lower castes’ and deprived of privileges which has led to poverty.The book offered a more nuanced take on how religion is in fact responsible for the tragedy of caste exploitation,but the film conveniently ignores it.*Maybe* to avoid the censors of media trial here in India,or to avoid outrage by NRI’s(most of them UC).

    Like

    • I ran out of energy by the second paragraph. Can you give me a shorter version?

      On Mon, Jan 25, 2021 at 9:53 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

      • Here’s a sorta shorter version I found (this is not a movie I feel like I can summarise in my own words btw):

        The White Tiger

        Balram Halwai writes Wen Jiabao, a Chinese dignitary set to visit India soon to tell him about the reality of life in India, a story only he can tell as a successful entrepreneur. A schoolteacher gave Balram his name, as he had been known at home simply as Munna, or “boy.” His last name is from his caste and means “sweet-maker.” The son of a poor rickshaw driver, Balram lived in a small home with his extended family. Despite the poor quality of education at the government school he was attending, Balram impressed a visiting inspector so much that he earned the nickname “White Tiger,” the rarest of animals. The matriarch of the family, Kusum, forced Balram to leave school to earn money for the family, waiting tables at a tea shop.

        Driver in Dhanbad

        Balram moves to Dhanbad, decides to become a driver, and manages to find a job as the second driver for Mr. Ashok, the son of “the Stork,” what villagers back home call the local landlord. Balram does any menial task asked of him without question, but he soon manages to blackmail his way into being the only driver. Balram has long since understood that politicians make empty promises to improve the lives of the poor, but as a driver, he is able to observe political corruption firsthand. Mr. Ashok and his brother, Mukesh, are trying to bribe their way out of a large tax bill owed to the Great Socialist, the leader of India.

        One night, Mr. Ashok’s wife, Pinky Madam, is driving while intoxicated and kills a child. Her protests push the family to force Balram to sign a statement of responsibility, but as no one reports the death, he doesn’t go to jail. After Pinky leaves her husband to return to America, Balram gets closer to Mr. Ashok, but his master still thinks of him as a servant. Disillusioned, Balram begins breaking rules and cheating his master, using the car for his own purposes. It becomes clear to Balram that he and all other poor Indians of lower castes have internalized a sense of servitude and personal worthlessness, so much so that they don’t even try to escape their situation. He calls this mentality the “Rooster Coop.” He is different, though, and willing to sacrifice whatever he must, including his family, to be free.

        A Wealthy Criminal

        Balram murders Mr. Ashok and makes off with his bag of bribe money. He escapes to Bangalore and takes the name Ashok Sharma. He uses the stolen funds to set up a driving business while bribing local police to ensure he has no competition. He grows wealthy, and even though he fears his family was killed because of his rebellious actions, he believes it was worth it to become successful. He imagines setting up a school full of young white tigers. Together they could run Bangalore.

        Like

        • Oooo, Bangalore! That’s cool, it fits in with Bangalore Days and stuff, the growing reinvention center of India, the young city where you can make your way unlike the established cities.

          On Mon, Jan 25, 2021 at 10:15 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

          >

          Like

        • Kirre, as a person who has lived in different lands, is this idea ” It becomes clear to Balram that he and all other poor Indians of lower castes have internalized a sense of servitude and personal worthlessness, so much so that they don’t even try to escape their situation.” a universal view within humanity or something that is particular to Western civilization? I haven’t seen the whole film, but in first ten minutes the narrator is forced to leave school and his resentment is clear and obvious, and struck me as very Western. Recently I had a discussion with a friend, who is a high achieving white woman, about wether or not the local tribe’s new gas station was a good use of funds or not. She wanted them to use their money for something more “uplifting”, because a job at a gas station wasn’t enough. And I was struck by how American that idea was, that everyone needed to be better than they were, or really richer.

          And that sense that everyone needs to be richer I did not get from most Indian films, so I was struck by how hard that message came across in the first 10 minutes. Which also made me find the film less Indian. But maybe I’m wrong, maybe that resentment is universal regardless of culture. I’ve never lived in India, and even if I had, I’m sure different areas have different cultural orientations, so perhaps my mistrust of the film as being Indian is misplaced.

          Like

      • The dress-up scene for Balram when Ashok was drunk gave me big “Purple Noon” vibes. Specifically, it reminded me of the scene where the Ripley character is trying on Greenleaf’s clothes and Greenleaf walks in and catches him in the act. I was disappointed that Balram wasn’t caught dressing up in Ashok’s clothes.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Strangely, just like Margaret, I’m not interested in the movie at all. I read the book…aaaand I took a look into the india-forums site to gather some impressions of viewers…and no, nothing there to tease me to watch this cinematographic adaption of the book… (am I biaised because of PC??? …well, not in the first place… but definiitely in the second or third one…)

    Like

    • Yeah, some movies I am excited to watch, some movies I am neutral, and some movies for no particular reason I just have no interest in seeing. This is definitely of the last category.

      On Mon, Jan 25, 2021 at 9:59 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

      • I saw the movie and loved it! I was expecting something more watered down, but the movie really captures the rage of the book. All the actors have done a fabulous job! And even if the movie goes a bit slow in between, I thought it did a wonderful job of capturing how Balram slowly changes into the white tiger.

        Like

  5. Copying over my comment from yesterday:

    Watched The White Tiger! I don’t have much to add to what Kirre and Salesman said. Priyanka was good, Rajkummar was good. His part is much bigger, he’s basically second lead – which is the cool thing, because usually it would be the other way around, but this story is told from the servant’s point of view. He’s a spoiled rich boy, a wannabe artist who comes back to India to reluctantly take his place in his father’s grubby empire of wealth and corruption. It’s a type we see all the time (the male lead of Sir is another example just this month) but in this film we’re not expected to empathize with him because we see how everything he has is built on plundering the human potential of people like Adarsh. (And yes, Adarsh is great.)

    I realized as I was watching that I didn’t remember the book all that well, not the details. The structure of the story is the same, that’s the part I remember because it’s fun and super effective at hooking your interest. The story itself is Adarsh’s gradual awakening, “breaking out of the rooster cage” as he puts it, from a system that taught him to believe his life was set by the circumstances of his birth. In that sense it’s not a dark story, and certainly not as dark as Parasite, though terrible and violent things happen along the way.

    Liked by 1 person

      • The part about the servant relationship that shows up here that I haven’t seen much before is it shows how Adarsh identifies Ashok as “the master for him” and then makes it so. He has the agency in the story and uses the way he knows the masters see him to achieve his own ends. But the story doesn’t paint him as the evil, manipulative servant because, again, it’s from his perspective. And given the system he’s operating in, where the landlord holds his family’s safety always over his head, his choices come off as the only way to make a space for control over his own fate.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. I got ten minutes in, and I’m uncomfortable with what I’m watching. Set in India but the language I hear is English. I looked up the author and he appears to have grown up with some amount of wealth and largely in Australia, then studying in the U.S. and the U.K. And I feel like I’m watching a movie that is about India for non-Indians. That puts me on edge, because from the start the story is essentially trashing India. I’m cool with Indians trashing their nation when creating art for each other, but this wasn’t created for Indians was it? I’m not okay with foreigners trashing a nation. It isn’t fair to judge a movie from just 10 minutes. I can’t say if the film is good or bad, but I can say it makes me feel icky for watching it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I disagree with you. This is probably the most Indian non-Indian movie I have seen. And if you overlook the English language, it captures the servant-master dynamics (especially in north India) very accurately.

      Like

  7. I don’t agree with the usual accusations – “poverty porn”, “foreign gaze”, “made for non-Indians” etc. Imo they mistake the sarkastic keytone of both – book and film. Here I can deeple relate to Baradwaj Rangan’s review:
    “… this is not just Bahrani’s gaze but Balram’s gaze as well. He does not think India is some sort of paradise. He mocks everything, including our gods.” “Unlike Hindi cinema, where the poor and the downtrodden are typically painted in noble and sympathetic shades, White Tiger gives us — besides Balram — a female political leader from an oppressed caste who’s now become both powerful and corrupt.”
    https://www.filmcompanion.in/reviews/bollywood-review/the-white-tiger-movie-review-netflix-the-revenge-of-ramu-kaka-starring-adarsh-gourav-priyanka-chopra-rajkummar-rao-baradwaj-rangan/

    Like

    • I guess I would be more comfortable watching something that mocks Indian gods if it were in an Indian language. I know the upper crust speak English almost exclusively (well I know this now, after watching movies and instagram posts and reality TV and reading Margaret’s blog post on language), but the first 10 minutes aren’t about the upper crust. It is a village boy narrating in English. I enjoyed PK quite a bit, I didn’t feel icky watching it, perhaps because it was mostly in Hindi. The language defines the viewership.

      And it could be because because I grew up Catholic, guilt comes to me easily. I suppose the ickyness I feel is really guilt, guilt that by watching a movie, made for non-Indians, that mocks India, that I’m crossing a line.

      But I do appreciate the nuances of human character, the good and bad rolled into a single human is a delightful thing to see in a film. If I get over my guilt I may watch the movie for that.

      Like

  8. I agree with the commenter up page that they missed a beat by leaving out the religious component to caste discrimination. There were also no female servants or indeed any women at the rich house except for PC, which was very strange, considering the majority of domestic work is done by women (servant or family), and the abuse that they suffer is so great.

    Like

  9. In case anyone missed it, here is the link to an NPR article where they talk to FORMERLY poor Indians about how they feel poverty was depicted in the film. Also, I had a think: The English and such isn’t so much that the film is geared towards ME, but towards the upperclass Indians from whom the author came, who speak English. And as the film, from what I’ve read, essentially chastizes THAT upperclass Indian community, it is a sort of art made by Indians for Indians. So despite the English and the ragging on India, perhaps I don’t need to feel guilty if I watch it. But right now I’m going to watch Bobby Jasoos again because it was fun this morning.

    https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2021/01/29/961620648/what-formerly-poor-indians-think-of-netflixs-the-white-tiger-movie

    Like

    • Bobby Jasoos is so fun! And it’s about lower income minority Indians, but in a fun way with cute love stories.

      On Sat, Jan 30, 2021 at 5:12 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.