The forlorn idea of a dreadfully poor part of India hailing a White Tiger is not brand new. We’ve seen it time and again and it has garnered positive and negative responses, but apparently hasn’t died out. After the famous Hollywood crossover addressing the theme titled Slumdog Millionaire, we have yet another one named The White Tiger that depicts the country in its worst light to tell a tale that is quite as captivating as it gets. The story of Balram Halwai, convincingly played by Adarsh Gourav is a unique and one worthy of telling, thanks to Arvind Adiga’s original that won the Man Booker Award.
While the book and the movie are equally compelling until the end thanks mainly to the story, how much of it is actually reasonable is an inevitable question. The question of how after all a barely civilized servant from a sad part of the country ends up becoming a successful entrepreneur in a major city is what keeps us watching, despite the many instances that seem like unnecessary evoking of film making nuances. But how far to the edge can you push the extremities of poverty, uncensored dialogue, uncivilized political behaviour and the willingness of a servant to serve? For the claims that the movie makes about being realistic, the extremities are hardly what we see everyday around us. No servant ever pulled his pants down for no reason and squatted across an old mentally ill man and laughed like a maniac in realization of his master’s ill treatment. The techniques used to unveil certain realizations and depict transformations are hardly convincing for a movie that has gone to great lengths to showcase the ‘real India’.
It seems like in the quest of portraying the raw and untamed emotions of the ‘real India’, a lot of film makers end up projecting undue extremities that never happen in real life. You’d expect an English speaking young man who managed to learn to drive in almost no time following a strategy of his own to know not to scratch his groin in front of guests. And I do not believe anyone would ever find a Muslim man maniacally worship Hindu deities in his room just to stay a servant to an employer who wouldn’t hire Muslims. If only these film makers did not push the ideas of a ‘strange country’ so much, movies would be so much more convincing.
The festering debate that rose after Slumdog Millionaire about Hollywood depictions of a poor India stand valid after all, because a lot of instances in The White Tiger are way more intense than how the book described it; especially in the scenes of rural India and its ‘uncivilized’ population. They’re aesthetically unappealing and almost repelling at a couple of instances. Yet, The White Tiger succeeds with just the element I’ve been emphasising on – story. Arvind Adiga’s idea of a man hailing from filth rising to a standard through conventionally discredited means is a compelling one sufficient to make a viewer stick to the end. And yes, Priyanka Chopra is a good addition but Rajkumar Rao seems a little bored. Adarsh Gourav steals that limelight like he was supposed to. Like always, however, the book is more convincing than the movie.