The White Tiger: Fascinating perspective of the narration | Sunday Observer

The White Tiger: Fascinating perspective of the narration

7 February, 2021

Plot Summary:

Entrepreneur Balram Halwai emails Wen Jiabao, requesting a meeting, and relating his life story. He states his belief that the Indian underclass is trapped in a perpetual state of servitude, like chickens in a chicken coop.

As a child in Laxmangarh, Balram is offered a scholarship to a school in Delhi because of his advanced academics. He is told that he is a ‘white tiger,’ someone who comes only once in a generation. Howeve,r when his father is unable to pay off’ The Stork’, the village landlord, Balram’s grandmother forces him to work in the village’s tea house, and he never returns to school.

As an adult, Balram aspires to become a chauffeur for ‘The Stork’s son Ashok, who has returned from the United States with his New York-raised wife Pinky. He is hired as the family’s second driver and blackmails the primary driver, so that he can be Ashok and Pinky’s driver in Delhi. In contrast to other members of their family, Ashok and Pinky generally treat Balram with respect and eventually become closer to him, though they still view him as a servant.

On Pinky’s birthday, she and Ashok get drunk and force Balram to let Pinky drive, which results in her accidentally hitting and killing a child.’ The Stork’s family coerces Balram into signing a confession, and though no-one is charged, Balram is left shaken by this. Pinky leaves Ashok, leaving Balram to emotionally support him. However, Balram begins to take advantage of Ashok by charging him with fake repair receipts and using the car as an unlicensed taxi. Balram gets paranoid about being replaced.

Balram’s grandmother unexpectedly sends one of his younger nephews to live with him to learn how to become a driver like Balram. This setback, as well as learning that Ashok has hired a new driver to replace Balram, causes him to have an epiphany. Balram murders Ashok and absconds with a large amount of bribe money meant for Indian politicians, fleeing the city with his nephew. An arrest warrant is put out for Balram but he evades capture.

Re-establishing himself in Bangalore, Balram begins a private taxi service for call centre workers. He treats his drivers as employees and not as servants, and takes personal and financial responsibility for any incidents caused by them. As he signs off the email, Balram reveals that he has also changed his name, to that of Ashok Sharma.


The White Tiger is a 2021 American drama film directed by Ramin Bahrani. The film stars Adarsh Gourav in his first leading role, along with Rajkummar Rao and Priyanka Chopra, who also served as one of the film’s executive producers, along with Prem Akkaraju, Ava DuVernay and Ken Kamins. The film features a musical score produced by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurrians, and was photographed and edited by Paolo Carnera and Tim Streeto. An adaptation of Aravind Adiga’s 2008 novel of the same name, the story is about Balram, who comes from a poor Indian village and was forced to drop out of school, even before he had started learning. But he had a dream, to break free from poverty, to unlearn servitude and how to get sucked into feudalism. He uses his wit and cunning to escape from poverty and rise to the top.

Adiga published his book, and decided to adapt it into a film in late 2010, with the rights being sold to producer Mukul Deora, but the film was not made for some years. Bahrani was roped in to helm the adaptation, although he wrote the first draft of the novel, even before it was published. Filmed extensively across Delhi from October to December 2019, The White Tiger premiered at Las Vegas onJanuary 6, 2021, and was screened at limited movie theatres in the United States on January 13. It was released globally through the streaming platform Netflix on January 22, 2021. The White Tiger received positive reviews from critics who praised its direction, screenplay and the performances by the cast.


Producer Mukul Deora, reserved the rights for the adaptation of Australian-Indian writer Aravind Adiga’s 2008 novel The White Tiger, which is about “an extraordinary journey of a self-made man from a tea-shop worker in a village to a successful entrepreneur in a big city”. However, as there were no directors that Deora had picked, he chose his college-friend and director Ramin Bahrani to helm the film. Eventually Bahrani, read the rough drafts of the novel years before it was published, with Deora stating “He’s very dedicated to adapt it into a film”. Bahrani added “It’s an epic story that required a lot of financing and money and resources to get it made in India, that wasn’t so easy when the novel came out”. He initially sold the distribution rights to Netflix, as Bahrani stated that “it had an appetite for global stories, for voices that are not typically represented behind a camera or in front of the camera”.

When Priyanka Chopra scrolled through Twitter, she saw a headline that a film adaptation of the novel was in the works. She called her agent about the film to offer her collaboration. Thus, Chopra served as one of the executive producers of the film, under her banner Purple Pebble Pictures, alongside Prem Akkaraju, Ava DuVernay and Ken Kamins.

“(The book) had a profound effect on me. It made me uncomfortable and made me think about a part of the world that we sort of desensitize ourselves to. When I read the book, I was fascinated with the perspective of the narrative. The story’s portrayal of raw ambition and the extent one will go to achieve one’s goals is riveting.”

— Priyanka Chopra, about co-producing the film (in an interview with The Indian Express)