As a new drama about India’s caste system shows, films about the upper crust and their downstairs domestics are often surprisingly subversive
“India is two countries in one,” our hero Balram observes in The White Tiger: there is an India of light, preserve of the rich and powerful; and an India of darkness, where millions toil in poverty. The White Tiger is a vivid study of caste and servility, as Balram (Adarsh Gourav) ingratiates his way into the service of a wealthy family, until he realises he is consigned to reside in the darkness. “And don’t believe for a second there’s a million-rupee gameshow you can win to get out of it,” he says, in a dig at that other fantasy of Indian class mobility, Slumdog Millionaire. There is rarely a magical mechanism by which people are lifted out of poverty, but the movies are often happy to peddle that notion.