“The White Tiger”, Indian Rastignac

Despite a sluggish start, Ramin Bahrani gives substance to the adaptation for Netflix of a bestseller in the form of a philosophical tale about the resistible rise of a peasant to the heights.

The novel must be very good, captivating. In India, he won the Booker Prize, a prestigious literary award. Published in 2008 and signed Aravind Adiga, the white tiger is originally a bestseller. Ramin Bahrani’s film (99 Homes, Chop Shop), all in his authentic and faithful admiration of the book, has the qualities and the defects of the romantic adaptation, to trust his story and to want to do too much. Two hours and seven minutes will never be able to penetrate the adventures written on 300 pages, unless overwashing or sitting down forcing to close the suitcase full of useless gifts. A film, if such an equivalence has any value, is at best akin to a long story. A film is a concise object. This does not prohibit amplitude on the contrary, only by means other than the novel: means of modesty, dense, clean, sober. Consider refining a tale, rather than a saga (the TV series is here). Besides the white tiger, produced by Netflix, would have been advantageous to be the subject of a miniseries, one thinks about it. It is a philosophical tale, Voltairean, which would like to do without any of its episodes.

Curb chain

This explains why as it is – the story of the resistible rise of its hero, a peasant in the city’s “white tiger” poverty-stricken fields, with a liberal-socialist curb chain – the film hesitates. He makes his way chugging along, from the folklore of the epic filmed quickly to the drought of the class chronicle, little guy gradually becoming more consistent. His choice, which we imagine late, opening in full climax (pochetronnée scene of car accident, updated much later), as the story in the form of a letter (river) of allegiance to the Chinese authorities on the occasion of the visit of their Prime Minister, with voice-over which justifies the vast autobiographical flashback of the film, says enough the misinterpretation of its literary application but also the obstinacy of Bahrami to follow his bias of lavish narrative. It becomes lighter in the course of the journey and the building up, when Balram the good-natured candid leaves his land and his family’s miserable village to “go up to the city”, the capital of “the greatest democracy in the world”.


“Do we hate our masters behind a facade of love? Or do we love them behind a facade of hatred? “ It is the middle of the film, its most intimate, cruel part and suddenly stripped of its wise cinema mines aimed at Western audiences (the film is co-produced by the United States, Ana Duvernay in the credits), which convinces ultimately. Like his domestic protagonist, a driver and a forced laborer, driven to the limit by the relentlessness of his rich bosses to behave like dirty bastards with good manners, to treat him like a dog that he has never ceased to be in their eyes, the white tiger sees red.

His servile gentleness turns into sleepwalking vengeance. The outburst of renewed violence, immoral and just reprisals, was worth the wait from the first hour. The very end falls all the same, his frontal hardness and his call to revolt seem to be tackled. The fact remains that it is a “hard-bellied” film, the opposite of the soft underbelly of films without a stomach, with this beginning and this end less interesting than the flesh in the middle, when we get into the quick, the excess. full of contained rage. From a class of servants in love and in hatred of their master, who rebels.

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“The White Tiger”, Indian Rastignac

Hank Gilbert