The White Tiger, based on Aravind Adiga’s 2008 best-selling novel, is a fitting choice for Ramin Bahrani, the director of such neorealist films as Man Push Cart, Chop Shop, and Good-Bye Solo. Those focus on working-class struggles, often among immigrant populations, and were shot in urban locations with mostly nonprofessional actors. This film, streaming on Netflix, was also photographed in India’s chaotic streets, impoverished villages, and wealthy estates, but here Bahrani cast seasoned Indian actors. Adiga and Bahrani (to whom the Man Booker prize-winning book is dedicated) were friends at Columbia University, and their relationship is no doubt key to how successfully the film captures the novel’s dark comic tone. The result is a wicked and entertaining satire on the class conflicts roiling Indian society, a neo-Marxist story of masters and servants, money and corruption — a Horatio Alger tale with a devilish twist.
The opening scene, set in 2007, establishes the contrasts between modern and traditional.