March 13, 2009
Aravind Adiga's "The White Tiger" - Drawing Parrallels with Danny Boyle's "Slumdog Millionaire"?
I would not have read this novel, "The White Tiger", had I not seen the movie "Slumdog Millionaire'. The parallels between Aravind Adiga's novel "The White Tiger" and Danny Boyle's movie "Slumdog Millionaire" are uncanny: they are both set in the current day India with it's booming economy; both have a poor young Indian male as the protagonist who becomes incredibly rich in record time and in the most unique way imaginable; both reveal the class based ethos of India in a nonchalant narrative of two incredible storylines.
Adiga's book is definitely a page turner as it took me a few hours over a weekend to get through it. Though a simple tale, but Adiga manages to make it intriguing because of his colorful and unpredictable protagonist Balaram Halwai whose reactions to events and situations make the reader hold his breath and wonder. Halwai, though similiar to Boyle's 'Slumdog' Jamal in his socio economic status, lacks the straightforwardness of Jamal. Halwai is not waiting for love as was Jamal in the movie, and neither is Halwai content with his lot as Jamal was until he entered the Game Show. Unlike Jamal, Halwai wants to change his have-not status; he knows that he has to grab life wherever and whenever he can find it, and in the book he makes the ultimate grab for it in the most bizzare way possible which I think you will want to find out on your own when you read The White Tiger.
Aravind Adiga beat Salman Rushdie, Joseph O'Neill, and some other well known authors to get the Booker Prize in 2008, and I wonder why. No doubt, the novel has an intensity in that it keeps the reader at edge wanting to know what Halwai would do next, but that is not enough for this novel to have gotten this prestigious recognition. Apparently Adiga's book prevailed "because the judges felt that it shocked and entertained in equal measure." This comment made me think about another novel I had read a few years ago, "A Fine Balance" by Rohinton Mistry; a long and arduous read of some 600+ pages that shares its theme and setting with "The White Tiger". Mistry's "A Fine Balance" created waves in the literary world then, but not on the scale that Adiga's book did, and I think that was so because it lacked in its ability to 'entertain while shocking'; something that Adiga manages to do with uncanny ease in his "White Tiger".
Whether Adiga's "White Tiger" got lucky and rode the wave of world interest in India, or whether it truly deserved the Booker Prize, is for each individual reader to decide. However, I can safely vouch for the novel's ability to keep the reader engrossed until the very last page.