My movie experience on Netflix this week was moving. I saw two films, both of which have an Indian servant as the protagonist. But apart from this similarity, the movies have a completely different premise, and what was amazing to see is the range such simple characterization can bring to a story. This week, I am talking about The White Tiger, based on Arvind Adiga’s bestselling novel by the same name and, Is Love Enough? Sir, starring the talented Tillotama Shome.
The White Tiger takes us into the life of an ambitious boy Balram, played remarkably by Adarsh Gourav. He is poor, forced to leave school, and takes odd jobs to contribute to take care of his family. But he is sharp too. He understands the world around him and makes the most of the opportunities that come his way. And so begins his journey as a driver, a servant to an influential family.
Director Ramin Bahrani shows us a side we often neglect in the structure of the world around us. As a poor young boy, Balram dreams of becoming a driver to the son of a Landlord. His aim is simple, and it comes from his understanding of his position in society. He sees this is as a great opportunity and dives right into it. The divide between the poor and rich is visible throughout.
What unfolds next is the growth of his ambition, hunger for acceptance, and that hitting comparison between expectation and reality.
Adarsh Gourav’s performance stands out. He is cunning to an extent, but you feel for him. The scene where he is sitting with the landlord and his two sons when they ask him to sign some papers (no spoilers here) is remarkable. Balram realizes the difference between him and the people he has surrounded himself with and how he is just a mere pawn in their eyes. He says it all with silence as his eyes do all the talking. There are several other moments the actor aces and one can say without a doubt that it is not only a dream debut but a dream role for any actor.
Whether you have read the book or not, watch this one to witness a powerful performance.
The next film that I am going to talk about is, Is Love Enough? Sir directed by Rohena Gera. When I started watching the movie, I expected it to be a simple and predictable love story between a maid and her employer (a young, recently-single architect). But I am happy to admit I was wrong.
In a country like India, having a maid is common, but no one looks at their life with interest. Is Love Enough? Sir, beautifully portrays the life of a maid and her desires. Rohena Gera successfully manages to show us this other side, the dreams that make Ratna (Tillotama Shome) no different from anyone around her. She is hardworking, dedicated, loyal, and expects much more out of life. Ratna is willing to work towards achieving her dreams, no matter how small her steps are. But she also realizes that she is a servant. And there are boundaries, lines she cannot cross. Her equation with her employer Ashwin ( Vivek Gomber) grows into friendship and then love. But like I said, this is not your predictable love story. But it sure is simple and impactful. Even though Ashwin is willing to overlook the class difference, Ratna does not give in. She loves him, but she sees no future and looks at it realistically. When Ashwin declares he does not care what the world will think, she retorts that it bothers her. That is when you learn that Ratna is not looking for a shortcut in life. She knows where she stands, how society perceives servants, and their role.
The moments of silence, those glances, and declarations without fuss are moving. You fall in love with their love story that is pure and all heart. Ratna and Ashwin make for an odd couple in the odd world that we live in. But their love is real.
Ratna, played brilliantly by Tillotama Shome is acting at its best. She values what she has and is stronger than she appears. Ratna here is the one who helps Ashwin get over his breakup, and she is also the one who chooses self-respect over him. The last scene says it all and makes this film a must-watch.
I hope you get time to watch both the films and share your comments below. See you next week!