By Lynn Venhaus
Using a rooster coop as a metaphor, the crux of the story is that you are either in line waiting to get your head chopped off by your master or you kill your master. Simplified – rich, corrupt; poor, good.
Using his wit and cunning, Balram Halwai (Adarsh Gourav) narrates his epic journey from poor Indian driver to successful entrepreneur in modern India. He first works for rich masters Ashok (Rajkummar Rao) and his American wife Pinky (Priyanka Chopra-Jonas), making himself indispensable. Then, a night of betrayal occurs, and he realizes what he must do to rebel and rise up.
A long and meandering film, “The White Tiger” has strong performances from Adarsh Gourav as the ambitious Balrim, Rajkummar Rao as a new generation business leader and Priyanka Chopra-Jonas as his American wife Pinky.
Their presence helps considerably, but after a significant plot twist, which ruined the movie for me, continuing the journey was hard.
The caste system, along with the extreme poverty and squalor, in India have been explored numerous times, notably in the 2009 Best Picture, “Slumdog Millionaire.” The similarities are unavoidable, especially when director Ramin Bahrani never misses an opportunity to emphasize it.
Based on the New York Times bestselling novel by Aravind Adiga, “The White Tiger” has a meaty story to tell. But is Balrim is the most sympathetic anti-hero to spotlight? He is compromised.
At times, “The White Tiger” is insightful to the lower-class plight in India and the corruption that runs rampant in the ruling class.
But how invested in the story you are depends on your allegiances during the two hours in which they ricochet. By the end, it’s been a harrowing, exhausting, mostly unpleasant journey.
“The White Tiger” is a drama directed by Ramin Bahrani starring Priyanka Chopra-Jonas, Rajkummar Rao and Adarsh Gourav. It is rated R for language, violence and sexual material and has a runtime of 2 hours, 5 minutes. Lynn’s Grade: C. In theaters and on Netflix Jan. 22.
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.