People get greedy, and their greed often stems off a background of poverty or not having any certain needs met by the higher class. As a result, those needy people exploit thievery and dishonesty to con their way toward the top. Yet even if they get their essential needs met, success overruns their heads; even if they become the richest in their country, they see the richest person in another country, and want more still. That escalation of inflated egos is represented in The White Tiger, proving why the economic system of India is so broken, as it creates broken antiheroes like Balram.
From the number of times Balram is called, “country mouse” by his new employers, that’s when the movie gets quite exciting. Any moment he’s degraded by the rich folks he works for proves the power of the dialogue, especially when the conversation transitions into explaining what it means to be a “white tiger.” Essentially, it’s one who comes around once in a lifetime, a certain somebody who has the time to appreciate the little beauty present. This movie does that to you as well, giving you time to appreciate the little beauty in the feature, making you feel like you also are a white tiger. Supporting that theme is talk about how the roads of India are like a jungle, all chaotic and disgusting, not like the flamingo wallpaper behind Balram as he reflects back on these events. This parallel between the past and the present of his life give a strong glimpse of what the world of high class is really like- similar in impact as the 1983 classic Scarface.
There still needed work though when it came to structuring the movie, it starts with a scene that actually happens later in the middle of the movie, then there’s a freezeframe, and a voiceover that says, “this is the wrong way to start the movie;” indeed it was. There was no reason to start the movie in the middle then take us back to the beginning, it results in something that for most people will be boring and hard to understand. Quite a few components though make it less appealing to most audiences, the biggest one perhaps being the attack it lands on Chinese people, declaring that India is better than China. In addition, the religious themes focus heavily on Hinduism, but never actually explores its role in the society. There’s even a bizarre scene of two guys squatting with their pants down… I don’t know why this scene got a significant amount of time spent on it while the rest of the film is full of rapid cuts for establishing shots and detail shots. That really stands as a big reason to why many people may not find this film so enjoyable: the important moments are too rapidly edited to be effective, while less important moments are too obtrusive to flow smoothly into the plot.
Rather than the structure, the script is more about making every character believable as a real person; it helps that there’s good use of framing buildings that seem to be peering down and judging the main character, because that’s really what society is doing to him every day. This feature has a complete understanding of the economic class structure of India in the late 2000s, right down the cockroaches that crawl over Balram’s tent to give you a sense of what kind of predicaments he’s living under. You feel that poor predicament most from the way the camera never stops moving as if it’s being cremated, a little technique that subconsciously makes you feel more infuriated.
But be warned: if not careful while watching this, you could get the wrong ideas about its portrayal of human morality, as these characters’ actions are as deathly as the fluorescent lights make them look. With all the glamorization it does of crime and corruption, it shows human corruption with some bulbous photography. One of those fisheye shots gets super close up on Balram’s face, and that same type of shot is used moments later on an ox, indicating how even Balram’s facial complexion is like that of a beast of burden. Yet as low as he may look, compared to that of an animal, it can’t turn him into a likable human being as he steals and lies to get what he wants.
Yet when it comes to the overall theme, it best conveys that in pictures, just like what a motion picture is supposed to do. Multiple times it brings up a statue of Gandhi leading others, which is what Balram is subliminally being told he needs to be. Even more powerful is the image of chickens watching the slaughter of another chicken to represent the economic class struggle in India. Now, that really works to the advantage of proving how the women in this feature are the real victims, having to watch others of their kind suffer just so their eggs and meat could be fuel for the men. It furthermore proves that men’s inability to see that harsh reality is as dense as the fog at night.
The view of our future indeed seems hazy; if you’re one of the millions who financially suffered due to COVID-19, consider what was left as a testament to the world by The White Tiger. One key cause of crime and corruption is a lack of strong class relations to ensure that everyone’s needs are met. Greed is not the answer to get what you need, and especially not to get what you want. There’s an entire civilization out there of people who suffered from the pandemic in different ways, whether in high power or in no power at all. So we all need equal share and equal labor to help one another. I hope you have not started out like Balram, and if you did, I hope you don’t end up like him either.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!