Book vs Screen: The White Tiger

January 29, 2021

Overall, a decent translation to the small screen by Netflix. The movie sticks close to Aravind Adiga’s book, down to the story-frame of Balram’s telling the story to the Chinese Trade Minister. The film does an excellent job of showing the ‘two Indias’ Balram frequently comments on throughout the novel.

Where the film falls short is the humor and bite of Balram’s character. The humor of his experiencing the new world he infiltrates and his own growing discontent with the dichotomy of his world are inconsistent throughout the movie. While there a moment — like the first time he sees Ashok, or the hotel in New Delhi, or more darkly, when he first talks of why servants behave the way they do — but those moments are all too rare, robbing the story of much of the richness of Adiga’s narrative. I’ll let the screen-writer (Ramin Bahrami) and the actor (Adarsh Gourav) share the blame there.

The other change I disliked was how Ashok and Pinky Madam were written to be more sympathetic, which in the dichotomy Adiga set up, makes Balram less so.

The movie is worth seeing for the social criticism on the class structure of India, the visuals, and the story itself. But given the source material, it fell short of the quality needed to reach the level of a Booker Prize-winning novel.

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