The White Tiger

Movie review by
Jennifer Green, Common Sense Media
The White Tiger Movie Poster Image
Compelling dark dramedy has violence, language.
  • R
  • 2021
  • 125 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The film's narrator has a lot of messages to relay, such as that there are only two ways to get to the top -- crime or politics; that rich men are born with opportunity to waste; that it's not good to be a poor man in a free democracy; that your own past isn't easy to overcome; that "White people" are on their way out and it's the century of "Brown and Yellow" people; that servants are like roosters in a coop patiently awaiting their own death. Characters in the film get ahead through hard work but also by lying, cheating, bribing, killing, and stealing.

Positive Role Models

Balram uses his wits and natural intelligence, despite a lack of education, to attempt to overcome the obstacles he's born facing and secure a solid job and a more comfortable life. But it's not enough for him to withstand the mistreatment of his employers, and he turns to crime. Pinky speaks out against the way Balram is treated, though her husband's family treats her disrespectfully too. Ashok wants to be a nice guy but ultimately hasn't been trained for that; he's torn between two countries and cultures -- America and his homeland of India. Ashok's family resorts to threats, bribes, and violence to maintain their status.

Violence

People are killed or imagined being killed by stabbing, gunshot, and rocks to the head. A young boy's father dies of tuberculosis after spitting up blood, and the boy sees the man's feet curling on the funeral pyre, as if he were resisting death. Roosters are beheaded and cut up in parts. Lots of people get slapped. A headline says a family of 17 was murdered.

Sex

Men talk crudely about women ("t-ts," "ass," "lube," "jerk off," "don't let your little mouse get sucked into that dark cave," a man "dips his beak into his wife"). Pinky is disrespected and ignored by the Indian men. A grandmother makes decisions about marrying her grandsons off. After being reprimanded for it by Pinky, Balram rues that his father never taught him not to touch his clothed private parts in public. He rubs his groin while Pinky and Ashok make out in the backseat of his car. In another scene, he listens from outside a door to them "moaning" in their bedroom.

Language

Multiple variations of "f--k," "s--t," "bugger," and "ass." "Bitch," "homo-p--sy," "anus," "t-ts," "jerk off," "d--k," "Oh my God," "fart." Parts of the film are subtitled in English.

Consumerism

The film depicts poverty and corruption in India, and the story revolves around class inequalities. Indian entrepreneurs want to exploit one region's burgeoning call centers and positioning as a local Silicon Valley. Balram drives a Mitsubishi Pajero.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes and cigars. Some characters get drunk, resulting in one vomiting and passing out and another causing a fatal accident by drinking and driving.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The White Tiger, an Indian book adaptation from director Ramin Bahrani and executive producer Ava Duvernay, co-stars Priyanka Chopra Jonas in a tale that starts out as quirky comedy then turns into dark drama. Along the way there's quite a bit of language ("f--k," "s--t," "bugger," "ass," "bitch," "homo-p--sy," "anus," "d--k," "Oh my God") and plenty of violence (murder by stabbing, clubbing, shooting, and car strike, a father's body on a funeral pyre, and people slapping and hitting each other). But what could affect viewers equally or more is the depiction of abject poverty and class-based subservience in India as well as the sometimes-cruel treatment of servants. The story of a poor man finding a new life serving a wealthy family, then eventually aspiring to more than his allotted station in life, is reminiscent of South Korean Oscar-winner Parasite. Sexual content is mostly crude talk by men ("t-ts," "ass," "lube," "jerk off") and a scene where a driver rubs his groin while a couple makes out in the backseat of his car. Adults smoke cigarettes and cigars and drink alcohol, sometimes with serious consequences.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byCRo January 23, 2021

Violence throughout

This movie contains some disturbing scenes of violence scattered throughout. Lots of physical abuse like slapping, hitting and kicking. A man gets shot in the h... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byGeniusHamster January 30, 2021

Great but very dark

It’s an amazing movie that really depicts what the Main Charakter is feeling but lots of language lots of it
Teen, 13 years old Written bymadzratesthings November 27, 2021

What's the story?

Balram (Adarsh Gourav) is a bright young boy who is promised a scholarship but is instead forced by his family to drop out of school and go to work in THE WHITE TIGER. One day many years later, he discovers that the son of the wealthy "landlord" family of his village has just returned from America and is in need of a driver. He convinces his family to let him train and try for the position, which he gets. Life seems more comfortable working for Ashok (Rajkummar Rao) and his liberal Indian American wife Pinky (Priyanka Chopra Jonas), but Balram is also subjected to humiliations and mistreatment from Ashok's family. When a tragic accident occurs, Balram is set up to take the blame, causing a shift in his attitude toward his employers and his status in life and inspiring him to try to break out of his shackles –- by any means necessary.

Is it any good?

This gritty drama about class inequality in India will resonate with viewers from all around the world. In a voiceover narration set up as a letter from the main character to the visiting premier of China, Balram asserts that where there used to be a thousand castes in India, now there are only two: men with big bellies and men with small bellies. It's only when he throws off the shackles of servitude by cheating his "master" out of money that he says his belly begins to grow. It's just one example of how the untrustworthy narrator of The White Tiger blends dark humor with social critique in a mix that is compelling, entertaining, and distressing all at once. The film plays out in two contrasting hours, much like South Korean satire Parasite, with which it will doubtless be compared. The first hour feels like a slightly quirky rags-to-riches dramatic comedy; the second hour, beginning with an accident foreshadowed in the introduction, spirals downward into darker drama and crime. Both parts are driven by a subtle and convincing performance by Adarsh Gourav as Balram.

The White Tiger pulls no punches in its clear-eyed depiction of class inequalities, corruption, and violence in India, where a man of Balram's status is born into layers of servitude. "I was trapped in the rooster coop," Balram states of his and other servants' resignation to their fate. "And don't believe for a second there's a million-rupee game show you can win to get out of it." A show, maybe, like the one that saves a man like Balram in 2008's Slumdog Millionaire. Balram's narrative is so laden with social commentary, you have to pay close attention not to miss any of his one-liners. He sneers at the idea of India as the world's "largest democracy" and watches as a politician known as "The Great Socialist" wins the poor vote with one hand and arrogantly bribes wealthy business owners with the other. He vows if he were elected leader of India, he'd focus on sewage pipes before democracy. He declares the future belongs to India and China, not America, and yet the America-raised and –educated Pinky is the film's most egalitarian and generous character. As the title hints, the film also plays with animal symbolism for dramatic (caged roosters and tigers, cawing crows) and comedic (cows, "the most well-fed members" of the family) effect.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the depiction of class inequality in India seen in The White Tiger. What surprised you the most?

  • What's the symbolism of the rooster coop? How about the white tiger?

  • How are Ashok and Pinky, who have been raised and/or educated in the United States, different from their other family members?

  • The film is likely to draw comparisons to Parasite as well as to Slumdog Millionaire. Have you seen these other films? How do they compare, in your view?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

Themes & Topics

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