Saturday, February 27, 2021     Volume: 21, Issue: 52
Signup

Santa Maria Sun / Film

This weeks review
BEST WISHES, WARMEST REGARDS: A SCHITT’S CREEK FAREWELL
BINGABLE: ABANDONED (2016)
BINGEABLE: BARRY
BINGEABLE: FLEABAG
BINGEABLE: NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC DOCUMENTARIES
BINGEABLE: OUTLANDER (2014-present)
BINGEABLE: STRANGER THINGS 3
BINGEABLE: THE SINNER (SEASON 2)
BLAST FROM THE PAST: RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981)
BLAST FROM THE PAST: THE MATRIX
BLAST FROM THE PAST: THE PRESTIGE (2006)
BLAST FROM THE PAST: WILD AT HEART (1990)
BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM
DA 5 BLOODS
ENOLA HOLMES
FIRST COW
GUILTY PLEASURES: CHEER (2020)
HAVE A GOOD TRIP: ADVENTURES IN PSYCHEDELICS
HEARST CASTLE: BUILDING THE DREAM
I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS
JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH
LET HIM GO
LYING AND STEALING
PALMER
SHUT UP LITTLE MAN! AN AUDIO MISADVENTURE (2011)
SOUL
SUPERINTELLIGENCE
THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM
THE DIG
THE LITTLE THINGS
THE MIDNIGHT SKY
THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN
THE WHITE TIGER
THE WOLF OF SNOW HOLLOW
TREAD
TV REVIEW: BATES MOTEL
TV REVIEW: BOSCH
TV REVIEW: DEFENDING JACOB
TV REVIEW: EVIL
TV REVIEW: FEAR CITY
TV REVIEW: HELL ON WHEELS (2011-2016)
TV REVIEW: HOMECOMING
TV REVIEW: HOW TO WITH JOHN WILSON
TV REVIEW: I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE
TV REVIEW: I MAY DESTROY YOU
TV REVIEW: I’LL BE GONE IN THE DARK
TV REVIEW: LENOX HILL
TV REVIEW: LITTLE AMERICA
TV REVIEW: LOVECRAFT COUNTRY
TV REVIEW: MRS. AMERICA
TV REVIEW: ONE MISSISSIPPI
TV REVIEW: PAINTING WITH JOHN (2021)
TV REVIEW: RAMY
TV REVIEW: RUN
TV REVIEW: SEARCH PARTY
TV REVIEW: SPACE FORCE
TV REVIEW: TABOO
TV REVIEW: THE BOYS
TV REVIEW: THE END OF THE F***ING WORLD
TV REVIEW: THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT
TV REVIEW: THE LAST KINGDOM
TV REVIEW: THE MIDNIGHT GOSPEL
TV REVIEW: THE MORNING SHOW
TV REVIEW: THE MOST DANGEROUS ANIMAL OF ALL
TV REVIEW: THE NEW YORK TIMES PRESENTS FRAMING BRITNEY SPEARS (EPISODE 6) (2021)
TV REVIEW: THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA
TV REVIEW: THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT
TV REVIEW: THE THIRD DAY
TV REVIEW: THE VOW
TV REVIEW: TREADSTONE (2019)
TV REVIEW: UNDONE
TV REVIEW: WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS
TV REVIEW: ZEROZEROZERO
UNCLE FRANK
UNDERRATED: BATMAN BEGINS (2005)
UNDERRATED: THE BATTERED BASTARDS OF BASEBALL (2014)

‘The White Tiger’ explores India’s caste system

THE WHITE TIGER

PHOTO BY , COURTESY OF ARRAY FILMWORKS

THE WHITE TIGER


Where is it playing?: Netflix

What's it rated?: R

What's it worth?: $Full price (Glen Starkey)

What's it worth?: $Full price (Glen Starkey)

User Rating: 0.00 (0 Votes)

Adapted from Aravind Adiga’s 2008 novel and written for the screen and directed by Ramin Bahrani (Man Push Cart, Fahrenheit 451), The White Tiger follows low-caste Indian striver Balram Halwai (Adarsh Gourav), who dreams of success. The film’s setup finds Balram, now an entrepreneur, emailing Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao as he explains his life’s trajectory, which we hear in voiceover narration. Proficient in English and good in school, Balram was told as a child he is a white tiger, someone who comes along once in a generation. He hoped to be educated further but instead his grandmother sent him to work breaking coal in a tea shop. He eventually saw his big chance when the son of the village landlord needed a chauffeur. Believing this was his path out of poverty, Balram relished his new job but quickly learned his caste wouldn’t change and neither would his future unless he took matters into his own hands. (125 min.)

Glen: India is a mystery to me. I’ve never visited, so I don’t really know how the caste system plays out in the modern world. It seems very anachronistic, but according to this story, it’s alive and well. As a boy, Balram demonstrated the raw intelligence to be offered a scholarship to a school in Delhi, but because his family was too poor to pay off village landlord The Stork (Mahesh Manjrekar), he couldn’t go. Years later, now a young adult, he works as a driver for The Stork’s youngest son, Ashok (Rajkumar Rao) and his wife, Pinky (Priyanka Chopra-Jonas), who behave much more progressively than the other Indians we meet, such as Ashok’s older brother, Mukesh “The Mongoose” (Vijay Maurya), who never lets his servants forget their place. Society has trained Balram to be a subservient, and we watch as he discovers this corrupt system is designed to keep him down. He equates his situation to chickens held in cages to be slaughtered. They know they’re next, but they do nothing to escape, resigned to their fate. Eventually, he realizes how little he means to his employers and how utterly disposable he is. This is the story of a cunning young man who learns to be as ruthless as his masters.

Anna: It’s a fascinating peek into the caste system, very different from the American ideal that you can become whatever you want no matter what station you’re born into. Balram dreams of more, yet his lot in life seems to always be the used and abused servant. It’s almost as if his masters have a doll to play with—to treat however they feel at the moment, to dress up, to pretend to be a playmate, and to abuse all in the same day. When Balram is hired as “second” driver, he realizes that even though he got hired for the job, he’s playing second fiddle to the first driver who gets more respect and money. This is when we first get a glimpse into what Balram is willing to do to move up the ladder, even when it isn’t particularly nice. The character is very sweet, and an innocent quality shines through, but he’s also saddled with the deeply embedded belief that he is less, which won’t go away. It’s frustrating to watch a bunch of rich assholes use him, but in the end we get to see him triumph, which makes it all worth it.

Glen: I don’t know if it was worth it. He may have gained money and power, but he lost his soul. I think that’s the point: The story is an indictment of a system that’s designed to curtail upward mobility. His intelligence should have awarded him more education, his education a good job, a good job success. Instead, he had to unlearn his programming as a good slave, but in doing so, he corrupted himself. I’ve no love lost for The Stork and his family, but Balram ends up turning himself into what he hated. At one point Balram seethes at the idea that India is the most populous democracy in the world. He knows there’s no self-governance in India as long as there’s a caste system that keeps the poor in their place. We like to believe that the U.S. is a place of limitless possibilities, that anyone can rise beyond their station in life, but the truth is we’re ranked 27th on the list of most socially mobile countries behind places like Slovenia and Portugal. That’s certainly better than India at 76, but maybe it’s better to have a caste system out in the open instead of hidden as it is in the U.S. Balram is ultimately victorious, but his is a Pyrrhic victory.

Anna: I guess what I mean by “worth it” is that yes, he doesn’t end up the good guy he starts off as, but he does find a way to become more than a servant who spends his days literally oiling the feet of those in power. It ruins the part of his character we’re rooting for though, I’ll agree with that. Pinky is an interesting character too—an American chiropractor who is at first disgusted by the way her husband and his family treat their servants but who in the end becomes a user just like the rest of them. It doesn’t cast a nice light on anyone really, and the law of attraction is in full force. Greed attracts greed, corruption attracts corruption, and on down the rabbit hole. Watching a white tiger pace back and forth in its tiny cage, trapped and unable to make an escape, is a wonderful visual for Balram’s story, just like the chickens awaiting their fate. It’s definitely a great socio-political commentary on the rich/poor divide in India and a cynical take on what’s required to rise to the top. I’m putting this book on my reading list; I bet it’s every bit as good as the film. 

New Times Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey and freelancer Anna Starkey write Sun Screen. Glen compiles streaming listings. Comment at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.










Weekly Poll
Where do you stand on youth sports during the pandemic?

It's too soon—we're still living in a pandemic.
Low-contact sports are one thing, football and basketball are another.
Getting any kids back on the field is a step in the right direction.
They should have been allowed back months ago; our youth need sports.

| Poll Results






My 805 Tix - Tickets to upcoming events