Coming back to The White Tiger itself, Bahrani says he was attracted to the character of Balram Halwai because of his cheeky, subversive humour and his utter lack of remorse about any of his actions, as he climbs his way up the social ladder, from chauffeur to entrepreneur. More broadly, meanwhile, he was taken with the tone of the novel. “The movie is fun and funny, but there is a simmering rage underneath that I think people around the world can feel, especially if they are sick and tired of being servants to other human beings, or society and economic forces that are against them.”
However while the story does try to offer up a cynical view of India’s complex class system, it is also a fairly simplistic rich-equals-bad and poor-equals-good spiel. (And isn’t India’s infamous caste system itself one of the most exotic narratives about the country on the international stage?). So, in some ways, nothing has really changed.
“I can only hope that there will be more conversation about India and south Asia now with Kamala Harris on the scene,” says Punathambekar. But he believes that movies like Slumdog Millionaire and The White Tiger are rare exceptions, and the Western market is not ready to embrace everyday Indian narratives. “If say, [American audiences] watch this on Netflix, and the channel throws up more Indian content based on this history, they may explore more regular Indian content. But I don’t think they are likely to pay for tickets to watch such content at the theatre.”
The White Tiger is now available on Netflix around the world
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