Review: The White Tiger – Indian crime thriller roars on Netflix

Writer-director Ramin Bahrani’s darkly comic adaptation of Aravind Adiga’s novel clearly owes a lot to Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire.

But while both films follow a resourceful young man trying to escape poverty in modern India, there’s nothing remotely feel-good about this beautifully shot satire.

India, he tells us, used to have a thousand castes, according to our hero and narrator Balram (Adarsh Gourav).

"Now there are two – those with big bellies and those with small bellies," he adds.

"I was trapped, and I didn't believe for a second there was a million-rupee game show to get out of it."

To him, modern India is a “rooster coop” where servile masses stupidly wait to be butchered and fed to the rich. We know Balram – who sees himself as a once-in-a-generation outsider or “white tiger” – makes it from the opening scene where, as a nattily attired entrepreneur, he narrates his life story.

Balram tries to inveigle his way into the affections of Ashok (Rajkummar Rao), son of the corrupt coal baron who owns most of the land in his village. Ashok has just returned from America with a new wife (Priyanka Chopra) and seemingly liberal Western attitudes towards the lower castes.

We root for Balram when he talks his way into a job as Ashok’s chauffeur.

But there’s something deeply unsettling about him too.

And when he begins to sense the hypocrisy of his glamorous master and mistress, his dark side begins to take over.

This tension keeps us hooked, though the pace sags a little in the middle, as we hurtle towards the pitch-black finale.

To the witty and now-worldly narrator, morality is a luxury of the rich. To escape the chopping block, an ambitious young man may need to wield a knife of his own.

On Netflix from January 22

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