The White Tiger parents guide

The White Tiger Parent Guide

Indian movies often don't translate well for North American audiences, but this is an exception. It's replete with Indian cultural references but it's still accessible.

Overall C+

Netflix: Born in abject poverty in India, Balram is determined to find a way out. When he lands a job as a personal chauffeur for a wealthy couple, it seems that his problems are solved. But his new job proves to be much more complex than he expected.

Release date January 22, 2021

Violence C-
Sexual Content C+
Profanity D
Substance Use D

Why is The White Tiger rated R? The MPAA rated The White Tiger R for language, violence and sexual material.

Run Time: 125 minutes

Parent Movie Review

Growing up in rural India, Balram (Adarsh Gourav) spent his childhood in absolute poverty. When his father (Satish Kumar) fails to pay the local landlord, Balram is pulled out of school and put to work in his grandmother’s tea business. But the time he spent learning to read and write fostered in him a sense of determination to escape his difficult, dangerous, and frequently dirty life. When he meets Ashok (Rajkummar Rao), the wealthy son of his landlord who has recently returned from America, he hatches a plan to go to work as Ashok’s driver. But even with that dream achieved, Balram is only beginning to realize how difficult his aspirations will be…

I’ve reviewed a few Indian Netflix movies, and they’re a mixed bag. There seem to be a lot of specific cultural tropes and preferences which just don’t translate well for North Americans, and I usually end up feeling somewhat confused. Not so here: The White Tiger, while positively dripping with Indian culture, follows a story that is much more approachable to a Western audience.

That, in my view, is a good thing. This movie has a lot to offer by way of social commentary and some genuinely impressive performances from the lead cast. The film I was most frequently reminded of is Parasite, which is promising, given that Parasite took home a Best Picture Oscar. Balram is functionally a serf in his hometown, little more than a tenant laborer for the local landlord. What is fascinating is that in his infiltration of the higher caste, wealthy society is not portrayed as some utopia: it is just another dysfunctional system, one in which everything is commodified and people are treated as disposable. What’s even more compelling is what Balram has to give up to gain access to this closed group, and what that says about Indian capitalism as a whole.

This isn’t exactly family movie night fare, with a sizeable helping of profanity, brief bloody violence, and some drug use. None of this is portrayed particularly positively, but that doesn’t make it any easier to explain to your ten-year-old. But, frankly, it’s probably easier to explain the profanity to your child than the films more focused approach to late-capitalist malaise and critiques of an increasingly complex and dehumanized global economy. This isn’t easy watching: it’s long, it’s tough, and it’s going to ask you some hard questions. But it is remarkably compelling, and if you can handle the content, I think you should give it a look.

Directed by Ramin Bahrani. Starring Priyanka Chopra, Rajkummar Rao, and Adarsh Gourav. Running time: 125 minutes. Theatrical release January 22, 2021. Updated

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The White Tiger
Rating & Content Info

Why is The White Tiger rated R? The White Tiger is rated R by the MPAA for language, violence and sexual material.

Violence: A child is killed in a car accident. A man is shown coughing up blood as a result of tuberculosis. A body is shown being burned on a funeral pyre. A number of chickens are shown being butchered. An individual is stabbed and severely cut with a broken bottle. In an imagined sequence, many people (including women and children) are shot and killed, an old woman is stabbed, and two people are beaten to death with a brick.
Sexual Content: A married couple are briefly heard having sex. There are a number of incidents in which characters engage in crude and sexual dialogue. A character is shown watching two others make out. Two men are shown in a scene of non-sexual posterior nudity.
Profanity: There are 36 uses of extreme profanity, 8 scatological profanities, and infrequent mild profanities and terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Individuals are frequently seen drinking and smoking. Some characters are shown driving drunk. One individual is shown smoking marijuana in a number of scenes.

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The White Tiger Parents' Guide

Neo-colonialism, globalization, income inequality, and corruption are all major themes of this film. How are those issues relevant today? What are some examples of each in your own country? What do you think we should do to combat these problems?

Many characters are seen living in extreme poverty. What qualifies as extreme poverty? What is being done globally to address it? Do you think there’s a better solution?

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This movie engages with many of the same questions as Parasite. It also directly references Slumdog Millionaire.