THE WHITE TIGER*CUT TO THE CHASE*
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Alex
Delhi, India, 2007: Balram Halwai (Adarsh Gourav) is having a great time in the backseat of a car that Pinky (Priyanka Chopra Jonas) and Ashok (Rajkummar Rao) are in the front seat of. They’re blasting music, drinking, and driving way too fast. A person begins crossing the street, and Balram yells to warn them. Balram begins narrating, saying this is no way to start a story. He says that an Indian entrepreneur has to be sly and sincere at the same time.
In Bangalore, 2010, Balram is a successful entrepreneur also wanted by the police. He sees that the Chinese prime minister is coming to India to visit Indian entrepreneurs. He writes him an e-mail, telling him he was a servant once and is now a celebrated entrepreneur. He says he will tell him about India by telling him the story of his life.
Flashbacks to Balram as a poor child living with his large family. In school, his teacher tells him he is a white tiger, a strong and rare animal that comes along once in a generation and will get a scholarship. In the village, a man called The Stork ruled the village and collected a third of everyone’s money, getting rich while everyone got poor. His eldest son was called The Mongoose – a vicious debt collector. As young children, Balram and his brother Kishan are forced to leave school to work in a tea shop to pay his father’s debts.
Balram’s father gets tuberculosis and dies. In narration, he explains how servants in India are kept on the bottom, using a metaphor of roosters being caught in a coop, knowing they are about to die but doing nothing to fight back. He grows up, waiting for his opportunity to escape his standing, and when he sees The Stork’s youngest son Ashok has come back and needs a new driver. His grandmother refuses to let him leave, but he tells her she will be rich, and she makes him swear to send everything he makes back to her.
Balram learns how to drive, then talks his way into The Stork’s estate and convinces him to let him take his family for a test drive. He pretends to be in awe of The Stork and acts very subservient. They investigate his family, as Balram explains in narration that if a servant steals from their master, not only are they killed, but their family as well. He is hired for the second driver job. He meets Pinky, Ashok’s wife he met in America, and Ashok prods him about computers, which he knows nothing about. He tells his father that the internet is the new untapped market for “half-baked” people like Balram. Kishan comes to collect money from him, but Balram won’t let him inside the grounds.
Balram overhears that the family has tax fraud problems and a famous politician called “The Great Socialist” is demanding two and a half million from them. Pinky, who has a non-traditional sensibility and stands up to The Mongoose when he talks down to her for being a woman, says she and Ashok will go to Dehli to solve the problem. Balram discovers that the first driver is secretly a Muslim – The Stork hates Muslims – and cruelly blackmails him into quitting so he can become first driver. He leaves to take Ashok, The Mongoose, and Pinky to Dehli.
In Dehli, Balram lives under the hotel in servants’ quarters. Ashok is kind to Balram, unlike the cruel and violent Mongoose, and feels guilty when he and Mongoose bribe government officials. Mongoose returns home, leaving Balram alone with Basham, and they begin bonding. He finds the other servants to be crude and rude and so moves into a space to live alone. He drives them near his village to visit Ashok’s uncle and tells them fake stories of holy trees as they pass them. Then he visits his family, who are angry he has not sent money since going to Dehli. His grandmother tells him they’ve found a marriage for him. He refuses and storms off. Kishan goes after him and tells him he needs to keep sending money, and he tells him he won’t have the life sucked out of him like has happened to Kishan.
Pinky confronts Balram saying he should be getting an education and asking him what his dreams are – he tells her it’s only to serve, and she yells at him that that isn’t true and she grew up poor and got out. On Pinky’s birthday, Balram drives her and Ashok out. They begin to have sex in the back of the car but Ashok stops them when he sees Balram looking. Pinky throws Balram out of the car and drives off, but then returns. Balram insists on driving but they refuse – the film then returns to the beginning – Pinky hits and kills a child that was crossing the street. She wants to call the police, Ashok wants to call an ambulance, but Balram says they need to go right away or else be caught.
The next day, The Mongoose, and The Stork meet with Balram and are uncharacteristically kind to him – they then present him with a confession that he is to sign saying hit was driving the car alone and hit the child. Mongoose says he visited his grandmother – implying she will be killed if he doesn’t sign. Ashok says it’s wrong, but backs down and Balram signs the confession. In narration, he explains he was trapped in the rooster coop – he thought he had no other option. Later, Pinky tells him that they have a contact in the police and that no one reported the crime, and his confession won’t be needed. He begins crying and The Stork kicks him, causing Pinky to become enraged at their behavior and saying she’s done. The Mongoose tells Balram he will always have his confession.
Pinky wakes Balram in the middle of the night and has him drive her to the airport. She tells him “you were looking for the key for years, but the door was always open”, and leaves him a large sum of money. When he tells Ashok Pinky has left, he becomes angry and begins slapping Balram, and Balram shoves him to the ground. Ashok tells him he wishes he had put him in jail. Ahsok becomes drunk and depressed and Balram begins nursing him back to health and trying to lift his spirits. They begin bonding, but when The Mongoose returns he is instantly treated like a servant again, and Ashok even slaps food Balram made out of his hand.
Balram realizes Ashok is not his friend and that he needs to save for his own future, and learns from other drivers how to steal extra money by providing phony invoices, and begins selling gas and driving for locals on his spare time to earn extra money. After Balram gives a homeless person money, angering Ashok and The Mongoose since it’s not his money, he thinks he sees The Mongoose saying h wants to replace Balram. Balram begins driving Ashok around as he delivers his bribes to defeat the Great Socialist in the upcoming election, and he looks in the bag and realizes one bribe is two to three years of his salary. He thinks about stealing it, but knows his family would be murdered.
The Great Socialist wins anyway and demands four million from Ashok. Balram arrives at his quarters and finds his young nephew with a letter from his grandmother, saying that they are angry he has not sent money in months. She says she has found a wife for him and if he does not return home she will write a letter to his master telling him everything. He slaps his nephew in the face. Ashok gives him the day off to spend with his nephew, and Balram sees him meeting with a man he assumes is his replacement. He takes his nephew to the zoo where they see the white tiger, and he faints. He says in narration when you recognize what is beautiful in the world, you stop being a slave.
Balram breaks a glass off into a jagged piece. He says he hoped that when he didn’t return, his nephew would know to run. When he drives Ashok, he claims something is wrong with the wheel and that he needs to stop. He convinces Ashok to help him, then stabs him repeatedly with the bottle, then slits his throat to kill him. He gets back into the car and screams, then smiles and laughs when he sees the bag of money. He goes to the train station to flee, but turns back and retrieves his nephew first.
They travel to Bangalore, where Balram uses the knowledge he learned from Ashok to find a way into the business. He uses some of the bribe money to bribe the police, and they leave him alone and arrest taxi drivers for having expired licenses. Balram starts his own company, “White Tiger drivers”, and is now worth fifteen times the amount he stole from Ashok. He goes by “Ashok”. He treats his employees like employees, not like servants, has them sign real contracts. When one of his drivers hits a child, he pays them a severance. His figures his family was almost certainly killed by The Storks. He says even if he was caught, it was all worth it to know what it means not to be a servant. He says he’s broken out of the coop, as his employees watch him leave.
Balram Halwai (Adarsh Gourav) tells the story of how he went from being a poor villager in rural India to an entrepreneur. He manages to manipulate his way into a driving job for an incredibly wealthy family's son, Ashok (Rajkummar Rao). Ashok and his wife Pinky get drunk one night and Pinky drives and kills a child, and Ashok's family forces Balram to sign a confession for the crime. They end up not needing it, but Balram realizes he must provide for himself, begins stealing and saving, and when he senses he is going to be replaced, he murders Ashok and steals the money his family had given to him to bribe local officials.
Balram and his nephew flee and Balram uses the bribe money to pay off local police and start his own business, a cab company called "White Tiger cabs". Ashok's family likely kills the rest of Balram's family in the village, but Balram has made a life for himself where he now doesn't have to be a servant.