Balram Halwai (Adarsh Gourav) narrates his epic and darkly humorous rise from poor villager to successful entrepreneur in modern India. Cunning and ambitious, our young hero jockeys his way into becoming a driver for Ashok (Rajkumar Rao) and Pinky (Priyanka Chopra-Jonas), who have just returned from America. Society has trained Balram to be one thing – a servant – so he makes himself indispensable to his rich masters. But after a night of betrayal, he realizes the corrupt lengths they will go to trap him and save themselves. On the verge of losing everything, Balram rebels against a rigged and unequal system to rise up and become a new kind of master.
[“Beware of the Boys” by Punjabi MC feat. Jay-Z playing]
♪ It’s the Roc in the building ♪
♪ Khaliq ♪
♪ ‘Sup ♪
♪ Ramel ♪
♪ ‘Sup ♪
♪ Pharell in the house… ♪
[woman] Should I switch to tequila now?
[man] Why not?
[woman] Maharaja, sing for me! Sing!
Why is he on this side of the road? What is happening? What?
Why is he driving like that?
Madam, should I drive now?
[woman] Are you worried, Maharaja?
No, no, I’m not worried.
You’re worried. [laughing]
[woman] The cow’s not gonna move.
Holy cow, so jao!
[woman] This was the best birthday. I never would have made it if…
♪ Happy birthday to you… ♪
[woman] Oh, my God!
[man] ♪ Happy birthday to you ♪
You’re such a…
♪ Happy birthday, dear Pinky ♪
♪ Happy birthday… ♪
[shouting in Hindi]
[narrator in English] Pardon me, this is no way to start a story.
I’m Indian, after all, and it is an ancient and venerated custom of my people to start a story by praying to a higher power.
So I, too, should start off by kissing some God’s foot, but which God?
The Muslims have one.
The Christians have three.
And we Hindus have 36 million.
Making a grand total of 36 million and four divine feet for me to choose from.
There are some who think that none of these gods exist, but in my country, it pays to play it both ways.
The Indian entrepreneur has to be straight and crooked, mocking and believing, sly and sincere, all at the same time.
[reporter] Wen Jiabao, Prime Minister of China, will arrive in India this month to meet with leading Indian entrepreneurs.
The Chinese Premier hopes to learn about the growing Indian economy.
The eyes of the world are watching as these two economic superpowers meet.
Jiabao is expected to…
[narrator] Mr. Jiabao, Your Excellency, when I heard you were coming to meet some Indian entrepreneurs, I just knew I had to email you.
Our nation, though it has no drinking water, electricity, sewage system, public transportation, sense of hygiene, discipline, courtesy, or punctuality, does have entrepreneurs.
[reporter] Prime Minister Jiabao wants to learn about India’s booming outsourcing economy…
[narrator] I’ve been following the rise of your country for some time, sir.
I know you Chinese are great lovers of freedom and individual liberty.
The British tried to make you their servants, but you never let them.
I admire that, Mr. Premier.
You see, I was a servant once.
Today, I am a celebrated entrepreneur in Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of India.
They say it’s named after a Silicon Valley in America, but I think we can agree that America is so yesterday.
India and China are so tomorrow.
In the belief that the future of the world lies with the yellow man and the brown man, now that our erstwhile master, the white-skinned man, has wasted himself through buggery, cell phone usage, and drug abuse,
I offer to tell you, free of charge, the truth about India by telling you the story of my life.
These are the best-fed and most important members of my family.
After them, my sly, old Granny, Kusum.
She had forced my brother, Kishan, to work in the tea shop.
And she took every rupee from my father, a rickshaw puller.
I come from the village of Laxmangarh, which is in the darkness.
India is two countries in one, an India of light and an India of darkness.
I think a rich man like you knows which one I come from.
To give you the basic facts about me, there’s no beating that poster, the one the police made of me some years ago due to an act of entrepreneurship.
Yes, the police are looking for me. Why?
I’ll get to that in time, but only if you promise not to judge me until I’ve told you my glorious tale.
[in English] Read. You.
Can’t you read it?
A, G, Z–
Have you taught them nothing, you useless fuck?
[in English] Sorry.
[man in Hindi] What “sorry”?
[in English] “We live in a glorious land.”
“The Lord Buddha received enlightenment in this land.”
“We are grateful to God that we are born in this land.”
Come here, boy.
Who is this woman?
The Great Socialist, sir.
What is the Great Socialist’s message for children?
Any poor boy in any forgotten village can grow up to become prime minister of India.
In the jungle, which is the rarest of animals that comes along only once in a generation?
The white tiger.
That is what you are. The white tiger.
I will ensure that you get a scholarship to a school far away from here, to our glorious capital, Delhi.
[in Hindi] Papa, know what this is called?
It’s called “clavicle.”
[in English] Clavicle?
[Balram’s father] Clavicle?
[in Hindi] And these are called “shoulders.”
And this is called “backbone.”
[Balram’s father mutters]
And what’s this called?
These are called “cheeks.”
And what’s this called?
This is called “nose.”
What’s this called?
[Balram in English] In the darkness, we all slept together… with legs falling one over the other like one creature, a millipede.
LONG LIVE THE GREAT SOCIALIST
[young Kishan in Hindi] Hey, Balram!
[Balram in English] The Stork. He was the landlord who ruled our village and collected a third of everything we earned.
He fed so much on the village that there was nothing left to feed on.
[mutters in Hindi]
[Balram] We feared his elder son, the Mongoose, even more.
[man speaking Hindi]
[Balram] And my father was always in debt to them.
[in Hindi] Don’t make me ask again!
[young Kishan] Psst, psst! Munna!
Get your book and chalk, let’s go.
The tea shop? I’m supposed to go to Delhi.
Father didn’t pay the master.
Granny said you have to work now.
[shop owner] Kishan!
What’re you doing over there? Get to work!
[young Kishan] Now break every last one.
You don’t like it?
Imagine it’s my skull you’re breaking.
[Kusum] Hey, sweetie…
Eat your dinner.
[Balram in English] I never saw the inside of a school again.
[in Hindi] Eat it.
[Balram’s father coughing]
[Balram in English] By the end of that year, my father was sick with tuberculosis.
No politician had built a hospital in Laxmangarh, so we had to travel two days to another village.
[young Kishan in Hindi] I’ll find a doctor.
[Balram in English] No doctor ever came.
[Balram’s father coughing]
[Balram] Election promises had taught me how important it is not to be a poor man in a free democracy.
[crowd singing in Hindi] ♪ God’s name is the truth… ♪
[crowd continues singing]
[priest singing in Sanskrit]
[Balram in English] Even in death, he was resisting his fate.
Resisting to die, be reborn, and die again, all for nothing.
I understood in this moment, how hard it is for a man to win his freedom in India.
[Balram] Later, I came to realize why.
The greatest thing to come out of this country in its 10,000-year history… the rooster coop.
They can see and smell the blood.
They know they are next, yet they don’t rebel.
They don’t try and get out of the coop.
Servants here have been raised to behave the same.
[rickshaw bell rings]
The furniture on his back is worth at least two years his salary, and yet he will faithfully pedal the money back to his boss without ever touching a single rupee.
No servant does.
Why? Because Indians are the world’s most honest and spiritual people?
It’s because 99.9% of us are caught in the rooster coop.
The trustworthiness of servants is so strong that you can put the key of emancipation in a man’s hand and he will throw it back at you with a curse.
I had learned to use my time to eavesdrop on customers, waiting for an opportunity.
[in Hindi] Would you like some tea? Put on some tea!
[in English] Something my brother had given up on long ago.
[in Hindi] Make it quickly.
Are you deaf? Get to work.
THE GREAT SOCIALIST
[Balram in English] I know communists like you don’t believe in God, sir, but do you believe in fate?
That was when I first saw him, the Stork’s youngest son, Mr. Ashok.
He had just moved from America back to India, to Dhanbad, where his family had made a fortune in coal.
I knew then, this was the master for me.
[Balram in Hindi] I overheard them saying they need a second driver for Mr. Ashok.
He’s just come back–
But you don’t know how to drive!
I just need 300 rupees for the driving lessons and–
No! You’ve always been insolent like your father.
You’ll stay right here with Kishan.
[Balram in English] Granny had married him off, given him two weeks to dip his beak into his wife, and now he was stuck here.
I would be too.
[in Hindi] Okay, forget it.
I thought if I became their driver, you’d buy a bunch of water buffaloes… and be the envy of the village.
So you’ll become a driver for the landlords?
You could be the richest woman in the village.
[scoffs] Swear on all the gods you believe in that you’ll send every rupee, every month, to your Granny.
[repeats in Hindi]
Pinch your hand and swear!
I’m pinching! Granny, just think…
You’ll become the richest woman in the village.
This cane will become gold, and when you swing it like this,
the entire village will line up to see you.
[Kishan] Wait! Granny made your favorite!
You eat your oily okra! I’m gonna eat in Dhanbad!
[Kishan shouts in Hindi]
[men singing in Hindi]
[Balram in English] And now, I just had to learn to drive.
[instructor speaking Hindi]
[in English] Right. Right. Right.
[in Hindi] Watch out, sister-fucker!
You’re from a caste of sweet makers.
Only a boy from a warrior class can tame a wild stallion.
Muslims, Rajputs, Sikhs have aggression in their blood.
Why don’t you stick to making sweets?
It’s not enough to drive. You’ve got to become a driver.
Anyone tries to overtake you, do this…
Out of the way, sister-fucker!
[Balram] Outta my way, fucker!
[driver cursing in Hindi]
The road is a jungle.
A good driver must roar to get ahead on it!
[Balram in English] It wasn’t so hard to find out where they lived.
I just had to get through the door.
[in Hindi] Yeah?
[in Hindi] What do you want?
Any need of a driver, sir?
I’ve got four years’ experience. My master recently died, so I–
Get lost. We have a driver already.
I see you have two cars, sir, but do you have two drivers?
What’s wrong with you? Get lost, motherfucker.
Sir? This is your house?
[in English] Namaste, sir. I’m from your village, sir! From Laxmangarh.
[in Hindi] Laxmangarh?
The gods must be watching over us!
[in English] I used to work at the tea stall, sir, at the main junction!
And I would bring tea to your Ambassador car.
Let the boy in.
[The Stork] Let him in.
I can’t believe it’s you, sir.
How the crops died since you left.
And we prayed that…
[in English] …you should have more sons to keep rule in the village, sir.
[in Hindi] Get up.
[in English] Do people still remember me?
[in Hindi] Of course, sir.
[in English] We all say our father is gone, sir.
The best and the most holy of the landlords, like Gandhi-ji, sir.
Ji, sir. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi-ji.
What do you want?
Sir, with your permission, sir,
I want to be a driver for you… or for your son.
Are you Muslim?
[in Hindi] No, sir.
[in English] I bathe regularly, keep myself clean, sir, and I’m not lazy.
Hey, I’m Ashok.
Hey, don’t do that.
You need a driver, let’s take him for a spin.
See how good he is.
[in Hindi] Yes, sir.
[in English] Just my luck, the Mongoose.
[The Stork in Hindi] He drives well.
[in English] Yeah.
[in Hindi] What’s your caste?
Is that a high caste or low?
[Balram in English] In the old days, when India was the richest nation on Earth, there were 1,000 castes and destinies.
These days, there are just two castes.
Men with big bellies and men with small bellies.
And there are only two destinies, eat or get eaten up.
[in Hindi] Low caste, sir.
All our servants are high caste.
[in English] Why does his caste matter?
[in Hindi] You drink?
[in English] In my caste we never drink.
So what do you do?
[in Hindi] Steal?
You’re a sweet maker?
[in English] That’s why you’re so sweet to us?
Do you cook?
Certainly, sir. Very well.
Sir, all kinds of sweets, sir.
Gulab jamun, rasgulla ho gaya, ladoo, rasmalai, kaju barfi.
[in Hindi] Whatever you like, sir.
[in English] The driver can cook too. Only in India. Can you start tomorrow?
Not so fast, bhai. We’ll have to check on his family first.
[in Hindi] How much you want?
I don’t want any money, sir.
[in English] You are like parents to me. How can I ask my parents for money?
Fifteen-hundred a month.
[in Hindi] No, sir, that’s too much.
[in English] Give me half of that, sir. It’s enough.
If we keep you beyond two months, it will go to 2,000.
And you only drive me.
[in Hindi] Yes, sir.
[in English] Can you honk less?
[in Hindi] Bro, you wanna climb in here?
Watch how you drive!
[in English] Why’d you do that? Don’t.
[in Hindi] Get the rod? Get the rod.
I know you’re play-acting. You haven’t been hired yet, hick!
[Balram in English] The Mongoose must have called his man in Laxmangarh, because two days later when they did hire me, they knew everything about my family.
The pride and glory of our nation, the Indian family.
Every master has to know exactly where their servant’s family live at all times just in case a servant decides to steal from his employer and run.
Fair enough. I would do the same.
[man speaks Hindi]
[Balram in English] But it’s what the masters do
to their servants’ families.
This is how the rooster coop works.
This is how it traps so many millions of men and women in India.
So rest assured, the Stork and his sons could count on my loyalty.
[in Hindi] This is the room.
This is my room?
You’ll share it with me.
I’ll find a mattress from the store for you.
No, there’s no need for that.
I’ll be quite comfortable on the floor. Nothing to worry about.
There’s even a first class roof!
Here. You’re to wear this at all times.
[Balram] It’s mine?
I hope you like carpets.
When you’re done cleaning those, wash all the windows.
But I’m the driver, sir.
No. You’re the “number two” driver.
[speaking in Hindi]
[Balram in English] Is there any hatred on Earth like the hatred of the number-two servant for the number one?
While I cleaned, he strolled about like a master.
He had every Hindu God lined up and was always praying, as if to accuse me of being a Naxal, a communist, like you, sir.
I would not let him out pray me.
[both singing in Sanskrit]
[in Hindi] Sir, why is Ram Persad not eating?
And his mouth stinks these days.
You keep your mouth shut.
[continues speaking in Hindi]
[Balram in English] This man was hiding something, and a successful entrepreneur always finds his competition’s secrets.
[Ashok and Pinky grunt]
[Pinky] Good job. Good. Did you hear that? Yeah, that was good, right?
Hey, driver! Hey, driver. Can you come here, please?
[Pinky] All right, I need you to lie down for this…
Hey! Come in.
I wanted to ask you some questions.
Hey, could you turn around for me for a second?
[chuckles] That’s not what I meant. Just stand here.
Um, I feel like your back’s…
[Balram] I’m ashamed to admit it now, but in that moment I thought Mr. Ashok’s wife, Pinky Madam, was one of “those women.”
[Pinky] Oh, I’m so sorry, I didn’t even introduce myself.
Hi, I’m Pinky. Nice to meet you.
Honey, honey, all right. I need to talk to him.
All right. Okay.
I need to talk.
So, uh, driver. We’re both… I’m sorry. What’s your name?
Sir, Balram, sir.
[Ashok] Yeah, Balram.
So, Balram, do you know what the Internet is?
No, sir, but I could drive to the market right now, sir, and get as many as you want.
No, it’s okay. Thank you.
Do you have Facebook?
Yes, sir. Books. I always loved books, sir.
Yeah, I heard you can read. Have you ever seen a computer?
Yes, sir. Actually, we had many of them in the village, with the goats.
The goats are pretty advanced to use computers.
[Balram] I could tell from their faces I had made a mistake.
Pinky, you see. He’s got two, three years schooling in him.
He can read and write, but he doesn’t get what he’s read.
Okay, now you’re being a jerk. He’s standing right there.
I’m not being a jerk.
[Pinky] Come on, Ashok.
You’re missing the point, Pinky.
Our driver represents the biggest untapped market in India, waiting to surf the web, buy a cell phone, rise up into middle class.
Something I can help him do.
You’re the new India, Balram.
I am the new India, sir.
You can go.
[Balram] I didn’t like the way he had spoken about me.
“Half-baked.” But he was right.
When you come to India, sir, you’ll meet hundreds of millions of men like me.
Open up our brown skulls and look inside with a penlight.
You’ll find all these ideas, half-formed, half-correct, all buggering one another, and that is what we live and act on.
[both speaking in Hindi]
[The Stork] Ah!
[in Hindi] Very good. A little higher. Yeah, there.
[in English] Papa, India’s future is in outsourcing with American companies.
Our future is China. They’re building superhighways, they need coal, and we sell coal.
But I really think we should diversify. The IT sector is booming, the Internet–
Internet? What is that?
Coal is real. I can touch it.
No, sir. I learned from Ashok Sir, the Internet is as real as a spider’s web, that it connects all the human beings across–
[in Hindi] Know what that was for?
[in English] What for?
For the Internet, sir.
You’re pressing it too hard. Papa is getting annoyed. Slow down.
[The Stork] Hmm.
[Ashok] Why do you hit the servants?
In America, they can sue you for that.
[The Stork] This is not America, son.
[in Hindi] They respect us for that. Remember that.
Hey, a little higher.
[The Mongoose] Hmm.
I don’t want to hear shit later.
[Balram in English] I was only allowed to keep 200.
[in Hindi] Good, sir.
[in English] Granny sent Kishan each month to take the rest back to her.
[in Hindi] And they’re not from the same caste. She’s a Christian.
And he married her?
That’s normal in America.
Her people were against it, too, but he wouldn’t listen.
Is she American?
No, no, she’s Indian.
She was born here. She moved there when she was 12.
She told me.
She talks to you?
Talks to me?
She tells me everything.
I’m their number one driver.
Are you serious?
Can I also come inside?
It’s not allowed.
What do you mean, “why”? If Mukesh sees, he’ll scold me.
Yes, you too.
[muezzin calling on loudspeaker in distance]
[Balram in English] What a fool I had been. It was Ramadan.
Of course he couldn’t eat and drink during the day.
The number one driver was a Muslim, and the Stork hated Muslims.
[car door opens]
[car door closes]
[in Hindi] As long as there is a sun and a moon, madam’s name will remain!
Long live the madam! Long live socialism!
[Balram in English] I almost fell down.
There was the woman I had seen on a million election posters since I was a boy.
The Great Socialist.
She was a low caste, like me and everyone from the darkness.
Like a good entrepreneur, she had pulled herself up to become chief minister of our state.
She knew how to stick it to the rich, and we liked her for that.
You take coal from the government mines without paying taxes because I let it happen.
[The Stork] And we have shown our appreciation for that, madam.
Two million rupees is a little too much.
We’ll be happy for some–
[in Hindi] Son! Come here.
[in English] Did you need something?
I can get it.
[The Great Socialist in Hindi] Come here, son.
Come here, fucker!
Your rich employers are trying to bugger me.
What do you say to that?
Driver, get lost.
Shut up, mother-fucker!
[in English] You don’t want to pay the government, pay me.
2.5 million rupees.
And I mean it!
[The Great Socialist spits]
[in Hindi] Otherwise, back to Laxmangarh, where I first found you hicks!
[Mukesh] Why pay this small-time sister-fucker?
Let’s go straight to Delhi and pay off the opposing party.
She’s going to lose the next election.
[in English] I agree. Papa, I want to go to Delhi.
[The Stork in Hindi] Stay here, learn the family business.
Let me and Mukesh handle this.
[in English] Come on–
Papa, if I may. Sorry.
You should not have been disrespected the way you were today.
That shouldn’t have happened. Shh! One second.
Delhi is an international city like New York.
Hey, Ashok. Tell her this is not a place for her to talk.
Oh, my God! Excuse me.
I’m sitting right here. You can speak to me.
I am a doctor of chiropractic with a DPT from NYU.
Pieces of paper are good for hanging on the bedroom walls, where she belongs.
Okay, you know what? No. You know what?
Me and Ashok are gonna go to Delhi, we’re gonna solve your tax fraud problem, and send you a postcard. How about that?
[Balram] Where did Pinky Madam’s aggression come from?
She didn’t care about traditions.
I know my husband!
[Balram] And when the number one driver got a bonus to drive my master to Delhi, I did something I wish I did not have to tell you.
[in Hindi] What are you doing?
[Balram] Oh, here you are!
Actually, I gotta drive Ashok Sir to Delhi.
I gotta make the Pajero look perfect.
You’re mistaken. I’m taking them to Delhi.
Really? To visit all the mosques there?
Get away from that.
I don’t think Mukesh Sir wants to give Mohammad Mohammad, or whatever your name is…
a raise of 3,000 rupees.
I’ve been their driver for 20 years.
Mr. Ashok is like my own son.
I drove him to school when he was a boy.
That’s a good point.
But only Allah knows what corrupt ideas you put into my poor master’s mind.
Please, sir, I have a family.
Don’t we all.
[in English] What a miserable life, having to hide his religion and name just to get a job as a servant.
I wanted to run to him and apologize.
“You go be their driver in Delhi.”
Forgive me, brother.
[Punjabi song playing]
You never know when they’ll come in handy.
[in Hindi] I’m going to Delhi in an air-conditioned car!
[“Get It Poppin'” playing]
♪ Crack! Yeah ♪
♪ It’s two up in the mornin’, girl, And the DJ playin’ that song ♪
♪ Now what you gonna do? ♪
♪ I’ma get, get, get it poppin’ ♪
♪ What you gonna do? ♪
♪ I’ma get, get, get it poppin’ ♪
♪ I got that plat no limit American Express card ♪
♪ Mami, you can get whatever you like ♪
♪ Plus, I got that all-black Phantom It’s tinted on four sides ♪
♪ Kiss it, they can’t see us inside ♪
♪ Mami, tell me do you like it I know you like it ♪
♪ It’s written all over your face Don’t fight it ♪
♪ You like it, more than I like it ♪
♪ So put it all over your face Don’t bite it ♪
♪ From rags to riches Club packed with bitches ♪
♪ Had to bag them digits Her head game was vicious ♪
♪ And we can get it Poppin’ in the bathroom ♪
♪ Don’t be selfish, ma Go ahead and pass it to him ♪
♪ Then we can all fuck It’s like a million on my neck ♪
[Pinky in English] Babe, my door’s–
I gotta pee.
Oh, no, poor baby!
[car doors closing]
Balram, you okay with the bags?
There’s a concierge cart over there which you should get.
Take all the luggage out, and park the car properly.
[Balram] Ji, sir.
[Pinky] That whole area is amazing.
There’s a few things that are too shiny, which I wanna change.
[Ashok] Put the bags down somewhere.
[Pinky] Look at the balcony, baby!
[Balram] The sky, sir!
What? You want to see the shooting star?
[in English] Put the bags in the rooms I tell you, and get this place cleaned up.
[Balram] After making dinner for Mr. Ashok, I took the car down to the garage.
That’s where all the servants lived, including the drivers.
[in Hindi] The thing to know about Delhi is the roads are smooth, the people are bad, and the police are rotten.
The masters’ clothes get washed here and sent back up.
Toilets are here.
This phone rings when your boss wants you.
There’s even a temple if you wanna pray.
And here is our den of pleasures.
When we have money, we play cards here.
[Balram in English] This driver had a skin disease called vitiligo that made him look like a clown.
It made my stomach churn.
[in Hindi] All the crazy fun happens here! Come!
If you’re not careful, the mosquitos will eat you alive.
If they carry malaria, you’ll be sick as a dog for weeks.
But if it’s a dengue mosquito…
I swear on my mother, you’ll shiver all over, and you’ll die for sure.
Die from a mosquito?
This is your room.
Nice. But who am I sharing it with?
You plan on bringing your family?
You have plans to do some fucking?
How’s your little guy?
Who’s this homo pussy?
[man 1] Check his bag.
Come on, get!
Bro, let us have a look.
This asshole’s uniform’s nicer than yours.
[man 1] Can tell by his bag he’s useless.
So, Country Mouse…
how much they paying you?
Enough. I’m happy.
Ah! You’re a sweet, loyal dog, eh?
[Balram in English] I tilted my body as far as I could from his face.
[in Hindi] If your boss wants anything…
I have it all.
[in English] Foreign wines…
[in Hindi] Girls.
[in English] My master does not do these things. He’s a good man.
A good man?
He’s a rich man!
[Mukesh] National Party Headquarters.
[Balram] Good morning, sir.
No, sir. Please, sir.
Seriously, I got it. It’s fine.
[Balram] For the next few days,
I drove Mr. Ashok, the Mongoose, and a red bag to see various government officials.
Democracy, something that you yellow-skinned men, despite your triumphs in sewage, drinking water, and Olympic gold medals, still don’t have.
If I were in charge of India, I’d get the sewage pipes first, then the democracy.
[in Hindi] To the President’s House. Move it!
[in English] Balram, I got it.
[in Hindi] Oy! That was our exit, idiot!
[Ashok in English] Don’t do that.
We need to dump him and get someone who knows Delhi.
We just got here. Relax.
Remember when you came to New York and you couldn’t even find 42nd Street?
You’ll figure it out. Don’t worry.
[Balram] It was the first time he touched me.
[Mukesh] Thank you so much. Yes.
Yeah, take care. Bye-bye. Yes.
[Balram] Why was Mr. Ashok upset?
If I had gone into the President’s house, I would be shouting,
“Balram was here! Balram was here!”
[Mukesh] You’ll keep visiting them while I’m gone, and don’t let them push you for more money.
[Ashok] Look. We’re driving past Mahatma Gandhi after just having given a bribe to the minister.
The world’s biggest democracy. Fucking joke.
[Mukesh] You sound like your wife.
[Ashok] Don’t talk about her.
[Mukesh] I hope your madam knows that you’re staying on in India.
[train horn blaring]
[indistinct announcement in Hindi on PA system]
[in Hindi] Just a little bit.
Mix it all up, please.
[in English] A good servant must know his masters from end to end,
from lips to anus.
[in Hindi] Here you are, sir. I removed all the potatoes.
[in English] And potatoes made the Mongoose fart.
[in Hindi] Good memory, boy!
[in English] Give my brother a reading of the meter each day.
[in Hindi] Yes, sir.
[in English] So we know that you’re not driving without permission and try to fuck the maid in the car. [laughs]
[in Hindi] What’re you laughing at?
[in English] Police put cameras in all the statues in Delhi. They’re watching.
[in Hindi] Understand?
[in English] Air-conditioning and music should be off when you’re alone.
Nobody cares about your air conditioner.
If you keep the air-conditioning on…
[in Hindi] …he’ll sit on your head and fuck your ear.
[in English] You’ll miss your train.
[Balram] Once the Mongoose left, Mr. Ashok would be my only master.
In Laxmangarh, we would have called him the Lamb.
[Ashok] See ya.
[“Feel Good Inc.” playing on radio]
[Ashok] Dude, I love this song. Turn it up.
Come on. Mukesh bhai isn’t here, turn it up.
[Balram] My master’s fruit-flavored perfume rushed into my nostrils.
You like this?
[in Hindi] Yes, sir.
[in English] And don’t tell anyone about this, not even Pinky.
[in Hindi] No, no!
[in English] I promised her I would stop.
[in Hindi] No, sir.
[in English] Everything between servant and master is always secret.
I’m not your master. Don’t say things like that.
[agrees in Hindi]
[in English] And stop calling me “sir.”
My name’s Ashok. You can call me Ashok.
I know it’s not the best name, but gotta live with it.
It is a really good name, sir.
You like it? You keep it then.
♪ Love forever, love has freely ♪
♪ Turned forever, you and me… ♪
Sir, you should represent India in the Olympics.
Sometimes I wish I had arms like you, sir.
Would you be quiet, please?
Boom, boom, boom, boom!
On your right!
Balram, you’re blocking my view. Come here. Sit here.
[Balram] I had never seen a man so happy in the darkness.
[Ashok and Pinky moaning]
[Balram] The Lamb still had the blood of a landlord in him, after all.
[Balram] Bye, sir.
[in Hindi] This is great when you’re lonely or upset with your boss.
This has revenge, rape, murder, sex. It’s got everything.
You can really enjoy yourself.
You can even jerk off.
[women laughing and talking indistinctly]
Red bra, big boobs…
Country Mouse, you like that?
Big tits, huge asses!
Hold them like mangoes and nibble with your teeth.
And suck ’em right up!
What’s he talking about?
But don’t let your little mouse get sucked up in their dark caves!
Want me to put in a good word?
I noticed how ladies in the city don’t have hair on their legs or armpits!
Does your mom have hair here? And here and here too?
Are all the women in your village hairy?
The whole family hang like monkeys and–
Why talk about mothers and sisters?
Dude, we’re just kidding.
Do I talk about your mothers and sisters?
[man] Hey! Come back.
[Balram in English] There and then,
I resolved never again to tell anyone in Delhi anything I was thinking.
[driver in Hindi] You fuckers hide cards in your asses.
Where are you going? Off to die?
[driver 1] Hey, fucker!
[driver 2] You’re a faggot.
Uncle, is there a room for someone to stay alone?
There’s one there.
But who wants to live alone?
[Balram in English] Pinky Madam wanted to visit Mr. Ashok’s uncle near Laxmangarh,
and so here I was, driving home in the Stork’s car.
That’s so pretty.
[Balram] Ah, I hated her for this.
If I crashed, it would be her fault.
Balram, are you happy to go see your Granny?
Yes, madam, very happy.
[Pinky chuckling] Okay. Good.
Balram, what did you just do? You touched your finger to your eye?
Did we pass something holy?
Actually, we just passed a sacred tree, so I was offering my respects.
Where? Which one?
Over there, madam.
[Pinky] Oh, that big one there.
This entire area is very holy.
See how they worship nature? Who’d do that in New York?
People with a backyard in Brooklyn.
You did that again. Did we pass another one?
Yes, sir. You see that path over there?
Sir, they say Lord Buddha walked on that path until he found the Tree of Enlightenment.
Pardon me, but I think you should do the same.
Otherwise, they say you become infertile.
Okay, we need to do this.
What is it? Left, right, and then your head. Just do it.
[Balram] I gave them reactions of piety for every tree, rock, and temple we passed.
Do you see that hill over there, sir?
I was like a sadhu to them.
Left, right, head. [chuckling]
Left, right, head.
Left, right, head.
[all speaking Hindi]
[Balram in English] I dropped them off at Mr. Ashok’s uncle’s villa.
We called him the Buffalo.
[both speaking Hindi]
[Balram in English] Then I knew I had to face my family.
[Balram in Hindi] Hi, uncle, how are you all doing?
How’s it going, brother?
Now he remembers his family.
You haven’t sent money home since you went to Delhi.
Forgive me, brother. I’m here now.
My grandson is a very big man!
But he forces his Granny to do all his work for him.
This is the fate of an old woman in this world.
[Balram in English] I wanted to bring him to Delhi and save him from all this.
[in Hindi] Eat the chicken.
I made it myself.
You haven’t had any like it in ages.
Ashok Sir is a vegetarian.
America made him completely lose his mind.
[Balram] I’m thinking of doing the same.
What? Are you a Brahmin?
Eat. You’ve gotten so thin.
A body should be filled out for marriage.
We found a girl for you.
You’ll be married by the end of the year.
I need time. I’m not ready to get married.
[Kusum] Not ready?
Just eat the chicken.
I don’t want to get married.
Stop thinking of yourself and start thinking of the family.
You’re not Ashok Sir.
Did you not understand?
Are you going to force me? I don’t want to get married!
You’re driving me insane.
Where are you going? Stop!
You must keep sending money.
I won’t send it.
That’s the family’s money!
She’s sucked the blood out of you and left you a shell.
And she’ll leave you to die, like Dad.
[Ashok in English] Why don’t I eat meat? Why does Pinky wear pants?
Why don’t we have kids? They won’t stop.
[Balram] I think we should not go back there, sir.
You know, one in every three buildings in India is built in Bangalore.
You know why?
Outsourcing with the US.
[Balram] Diversifying, sir?
[Ashok] Yeah, right. Not bad, Balram.
I’m thinking to offer financial services.
There’s so many Wall Street firms I know.
I can drive you to Bangalore right now, sir.
It’s on the opposite side of the country.
It’s okay, sir.
I don’t need sleep. I can drive all night.
No, thank you.
I got to make a business plan first. Do it the right way.
You will, sir. You will.
Yes. I will.
[Balram] If only Mr. Ashok was a real entrepreneur, if only we had left for Bangalore that very day,
then things would’ve turned out differently for us.
Rich men are born with opportunities they can waste.
But a poor man?
Feels like, “Are we gonna go back home, or does he want to stay here?”
You need to talk. Put your foot down.
Yeah, but he’s not had that conversation with me.
I think he’s being vague because he hasn’t figured it out–
Balram! What are you doing?
Your ginger teas, madam?
With your hand.
[in Hindi] What’s he doing?
[woman in English] Pinky, this is disgusting.
Your uniform is filthy and your mouth smells of that paan all day. Just…
Ugh! Just pick up this tea and leave.
[in Hindi] Bring another cup.
After you wash your hands.
[Pinky in English] He’s not usually like that. I’m sorry.
[woman] These lower castes, na, they’re all the same.
See you soon.
[Pinky] Keep visiting, okay?
[woman] Talk to Ashok, yeah?
I will. Bye.
[Pinky] Come here, please.
Madam, I’m really sorry. I will stop.
It’s fine. Sit. Sit.
I will stop eating paan, madam.
No. That’s not what I’m… Just sit down.
I think it’s wrong the way you work for us.
You should be finishing your education, starting your own family.
Ashok Sir and you are family to me, madam.
Don’t say that. That’s not true, Balram.
No, you can’t possibly believe that.
Do you know what my parents do in America?
They run this shitty little bodega in Jackson Heights, selling beer, paan, and porn.
I used to do my homework in the basement.
One night I saw my mom being held at gunpoint, and she still finished working the entire night.
I got out, Balram.
What is it that you want to do?
I want to serve you and Ashok Sir.
Okay, stop. No.
Stop saying that. That’s why this caste system thing is total bullshit.
You know, Mukesh tried to stop Ashok from marrying me because of this caste thing.
Well, fuck him.
And fuck that.
[Balram in Hindi] Is this toothpaste?
Yes, it’s terrific, whiten your teeth.
Where can I find something for an itch?
[man 1] The medicine shop.
[man 2] Five hundred!
Are these for the office?
Yep, take a look.
[man 2] Those are 200. This is leather, better quality.
[Balram speaking Hindi]
A hundred rupees sale!
Pick any one.
And 250 for the pant.
It’s a good designer pant.
[Balram in English] Why had my father never told me not to scratch my groin?
Why had he never taught me to brush my teeth?
Why had he raised me to live like such an animal?
If only a man could spit his past out so easily.
If you asked me to explain how one event connects to another or how one motive strengthens or weakens the next, I’ll tell you I don’t understand these things.
I should warn you my story gets much darker from here.
[Pinky] Is something going to jump out at me?
Oh, my gosh!
Happy birthday, madam. Wish you many happy returns of the day.
Oh, baboo. That’s great.
How’s he looking?
Please come in, Mr. Maharaja.
[muffled dance music playing]
[in Hindi] Hey! Country Mouse!
[makes kissing sound]
Don’t stand there alone. Come hang with us.
Standing alone leads to bad thoughts.
Look at him! Dressed like the maharaja of England!
[driver 1] Hope you haven’t peed your pants.
Someone get him a diaper.
[driver 1] Asshole!
[driver 2] I’ll lube you up…
[driver 1] How’s your room?
[driver 2] Are there cockroaches in there?
[strong wind blowing]
[Ashok in English] It’s fine…
So great. Oh, my gosh, babe, he’s asleep.
No! Don’t wake him up! He’s sleeping.
How do we get home? Just wait–
Let me do it. I’ll do it gently. [in sing-song voice] Balram.
[Pinky and Ashok laughing]
Oh, my God. I think he just shat his pants.
I’m so sorry.
Oh, my God. I’m sorry. You okay?
Are you okay?
You okay? Huh?
Oh, my God. I’m sorry.
Come on, don’t cry.
[in Hindi] I dozed off.
[Pinky in English] Sorry.
[Hindi song playing on car radio]
[Ashok and Pinky moaning]
Pinky, stop, stop. Stop, Pinky. We’re not alone.
What? It’s just Balram.
[Ashok] Yeah, but…
[Pinky] It doesn’t matter, babe. Come on. Come on, man.
[Ashok] You’re so fucking drunk.
[Pinky] I’m not drunk enough. I want to go back to New York.
Not this again.
What do you mean, “Not this again”? You never wanna talk about it.
When we said we’re coming to India, it was supposed to be for six months.
You don’t talk to me about it because you’ve decided that you want to stay here.
I’m trying to help my family. I owe it to them.
[Pinky] Can we not talk about them?
You know, you’re like a non-entity in front of them, you know that?
It’s like skim milk.
Nobody likes skim milk.
[muffled music playing on car radio]
[Ashok] We can go to a bar…
Oh, my God. Wait.
[in Hindi] Take it, madam. Only 100 rupees.
I’m very hungry.
Can I see?
Please, madam. Take three for 200.
Don’t touch the car.
[in English] Stop it. Don’t be rude.
[in English] Good girl. Bye. Rakhlo.
[Ashok] So sweet.
[Pinky] You know what? Balram?
[Balram] Ji, madam?
Get out. Can’t speak to a kid like that.
[Ashok] What are you doing?
No, madam. I think I should drive.
[Pinky] Get out of the car.
She’s the boss.
[Pinky] Balram, hey.
This is for you.
I’ll leave you here with your Buddha for tonight.
It’s green, hurry up.
I don’t need anyone.
[Balram] Ashok Sir!
[Balram shouting in Hindi]
[Balram in English] What is a servant without a master?
[song playing on car radio]
[Pinky] That was insane!
That was fucking awesome! Fuck!
Madam, let me–
What are you doing? I’m driving.
No, Balram. You’re not driving. Come here, come here, no, no, no.
Did you think we’d leave you behind? Are you angry with us?
Nahi, madam. You are like mother and father to me.
I can’t be angry with you.
[Pinky] Sit down.
I’m not your father. Don’t say that.
Stop calling me “sir!” We’re all friends here, right?
Get in! Come on, it’s her birthday!
[Balram] Yes, sir.
[Pinky] Why is this guy driving so slow?
[Pinky and Ashok laughing]
[Pinky] Should I switch to tequila now?
♪ Happy birthday to you ♪
[Pinky] I’m not two.
♪ Happy birthday to you ♪
You’re such a drama queen.
♪ Happy birthday, dear Pinky ♪
[Pinky] You are a drama.
♪ Happy birthday… ♪
[“Beware” playing on radio]
[radio turns off]
[in English] No, sir. We need to leave.
We need to take him to the hospital.
[Balram] Pinky Madam will be in trouble, sir.
I’ll call the cops.
No, sir! Sir, Pinky Madam.
It’s a fucking child. I hit a kid.
[Ashok] Stay in the car.
[Balram] Put her in the car.
[Pinky] I hit a kid.
[Ashok] Stay in the car, honey.
[Pinky] Call an ambulance.
[Ashok] I’ll do it.
Is it alive?
You stay in the car.
Please, sir, listen to me, if we don’t leave now, Pinky Madam will be in trouble.
Somebody will see us. Please, sir.
Sir, please get inside the car. Sir, please.
[Pinky] We have to call the cops.
[Ashok] Calm down!
No, we have to call–
Calm down, honey! Please!
[wailing] I killed a kid!
Please! Let me go!
Please, honey, calm down.
We have to go back.
We have to go back. Please.
Please. Oh, my God!
Please, Balram. We have to see if it’s alive.
Please, take him to a hospital. Please? [sniffling]
What did I do? What did I do?
What is that?
Just stuff those kids wear, sir.
What was he doing in the street at 2:00 in the morning?
It’s not our fault, sir. He just jumped in our way, stupid kid.
Don’t call him stupid.
What am I gonna do?
You know how those people are? Sometimes they have ten, 20 kids.
Even they don’t remember their names.
Nobody will miss this one, sir.
What if someone reports it?
The street was empty… and the parents, even if they’re in Delhi, the police don’t even let these kind of people inside the station, sir.
I shouldn’t have listened to her.
Sir, you don’t take tension.
Don’t worry, sir. I’m here. I will take care of this.
You go sleep, sir. You’ve had a very long day.
[Balram] On my lips, there’s a big contented smile that comes to a servant who has done his duty by his master
even in the most difficult of moments.
[in Hindi] Balram, come in. Come, come.
[Balram] Namaste, sir.
[Balram] Greetings, sir!
Have a seat.
[in English] Sit up.
[in Hindi] On the sofa. Make yourself comfortable.
[in English] You are family now.
[in Hindi] Nahi, sir.
[in English] Have you spoken with anyone about what happened last night?
[in Hindi] No, sir. I washed the car and went to bed.
[in English] It’s important that you not say a word to anyone.
[in Hindi] Yes, sir.
Would you like some paan?
No, sir, I quit paan.
Come on! You still eat paan, I know it!
No, really, sir! Ashok Sir, tell them. [chuckling]
I know you eat paan.
Come on, sir.
[in English] Open it.
[in Hindi] Is it all right?
It’s very good!
[lawyer in English] The judge is taken care of.
If your man does as he’s supposed to, you’ll have nothing to worry about.
My man will do what he’s to do.
[in Hindi] Right, Balram?
[in English] Can you read?
Of course he can read.
Read it to us.
[in Hindi] I got some paan on it.
[in English] “To whomsoever it may concern…”
“I, Balram Halwai, do make the following statement of my own free will.”
“On the night of November 3rd this year, I drove the car… that hit an unidentified person, or persons, or objects.”
[in Hindi] I don’t understand, sir.
[Mukesh] We’ll explain it to you afterwards. Keep reading.
[in English] “That I panicked and refused my obligations to the injured party… and fled the scene.”
“That I was alone in the car and alone responsible.”
[Mukesh] We’ve already told your family.
Your Granny, uh… What’s her name?
[Mukesh] What’s her name? Uh…
I drove down to Laxmangarh, explained her everything.
I met your brother.
Your entire family was there.
She’s so proud of you for this, and she agreed to be a witness to your confession.
See? This is the thumb impression here.
Just sign above that.
[lawyer] If he doesn’t know to write, he can press his thumb.
He knows to write. Stop treating him like an idiot!
Keep quiet, Ashok.
We shouldn’t do this. It’s not right.
[Mukesh] Balram, sign.
Then you and Pinky go to the police and tell them what happened.
If you understand law, then handle this. Otherwise, just shut up!
Balram, just go on.
Balram, go on.
[in Hindi] Go ahead and sign it, brother. Right here.
Aren’t you my brother? My younger brother?
[Mukesh] We eat and hang out together.
Dad’s here, I’m here. Brother Ashok is right there.
Is there anything to worry about?
[Mukesh laughing] Huh?
[in English] Just go and wait outside. We’ll call you.
[Mukesh in Hindi] All right? Go on.
All right, sir.
No need for that.
[elevator door opening]
[in English] To think of this again makes me so angry that I might go out and cut the throat of some rich man right now.
Not once did I think I had options.
Not once did I think I’ll tell the judge the truth or run away.
[in Hindi] Give me Moonlight Whiskey.
[Balram in English] I was trapped in the rooster coop,
and don’t believe for a second there’s a million-rupee game show
you can win to get out of it.
The world’s greatest democracy.
For hundreds of millions of people like me, there is only one way to break free.
I would have to accept what this man’s family would do… not just to me but to my family.
And that takes no normal human being but a freak, a pervert of nature.
It would, in fact, take a white tiger.
[in Hindi] Here you are!
Your boss has been calling like crazy for you.
He came down here last night too.
Are you sick?
You seem to be in some big trouble.
[indistinct commentary over TV]
[The Stork] Oy, jackass dick.
How many times do I have to call for you?
What’re you staring at? Get the bottle of oil, useless fucker.
[The Stork grunts]
[commentary continues on TV]
This match looks fixed.
[Mukesh] The cricketers are taking shit out there.
[The Stork] You’re back?
Come, sit down.
[in English] Who’s winning?
[The Stork in Hindi] See for yourself.
[Mukesh in English] We’re losing.
[clears throat] Hey, Balram?
Have they told you?
You haven’t told him?
[Mukesh] Hmm? [clicks tongue]
I got it.
They have a contact at the police.
No one reported seeing what I did, so they don’t need you anymore.
[The Stork in Hindi] There, there. Enough of your drama. Massage my feet!
[in English] Why would you kick him?
[The Stork in Hindi] He’s fucking lazy!
[in English] Why would you hit him like that?
[Ashok] Hey, Pinky, calm down.
How can you do that? Like he doesn’t–
[Pinky] Don’t tell me to calm down. It’s like you don’t care.
Do you like it?
[Ashok] Pinky, let go of him!
And nobody else matters after what he does?
[Pinky] You! Get away from me.
[Ashok] It’s all good now.
[Pinky] This is good?
And this shit?
I’m done with this.
[Mukesh in Hindi] She’s looking for the victim’s family, to compensate them.
What are we, murderers?
[Ashok] She won’t do that.
[Mukesh] Dude, shut up.
[The Stork] She’s gone crazy. Rein her in!
[train horn blaring]
[in Hindi] I have your confession and will always have it.
[upbeat music playing on speakers]
[food stall vendors calling]
[whooshing increases in intensity]
[in Hindi] Hey, brother. Can you give me something to eat?
[spits] Move along.
I haven’t eaten anything in days.
I don’t have anything, move along.
You must have a rupee, please give it to me, brother.
Where should I go?
I told you to move along! Does your head not work?
You want this? Should I take my clothes off and give them to you?
You want me to get naked?
Maybe something to eat…
This woman is driving me insane!
Give me something to eat…
I’ve earned 36 rupees in six months. Shall I give it all to you?
Then what should I eat?
Give me some food, my child.
This woman has gone crazy!
Get her out of here. She’s lost her mind.
Arrest her! You are the police!
[Pinky in English] Balram.
I need you to drive me.
[Pinky] You were looking for the key for years, but the door was always open.
[Balram] Did you say something, madam?
[in English] What flight? What?
I really don’t know, sir, what flight.
Why didn’t you wake me up?
Why didn’t you tell me?
Sir, I did what she asked me to.
Why would you drop her behind my back?
Why would you do that?
Sir, you can’t blame me.
Who should I blame then? You’re my driver!
I’ve never heard of a woman leaving her husband, sir.
She has not left me.
Sir, don’t hit me.
She hasn’t left me.
Sir, don’t hit me.
She’d never leave me, you piece of shit.
Sir, leave my–
[screams] Sir, leave my collar!
I wish they had put you in jail.
[Balram] I waited two days for my master to call me.
Had he gone back to America and not told me?
[movie playing on TV]
Are you okay, sir?
Why didn’t you pack up and leave too?
Sir, it is not good to starve yourself like this.
Sir, should I–
The whole fucking thing was her fault.
Should I call for pizza, sir?
Feeling better, sir?
You must believe in God, sir.
My Granny says if you believe in God, then good things will happen.
Why are you so kind to me, Balram?
It is my duty, sir.
Sir, I made some nimbu pani for you.
Have this, you’ll feel ekdum fresh, sir.
[whispering] Ashok Sir?
Do we loathe our masters behind a facade of love, or do we love them behind a facade of loathing?
[whispering] You need to sleep, sir.
Don’t leave, Balram, okay?
I’m right here, sir.
[imitating Ashok] “Why are you so kind to me, Balram?”
[Balram] With Pinky Madam gone, I knew it was my duty to be like a wife to him.
I didn’t let him drink, and I lifted his spirits.
[Balram in Hindi] Once you have the food here, sir, you’ll never forget it.
[in English] This is amazing.
[in English] From now on, I’ll only eat your kind of food.
[Balram] And I only want to eat your kind of food.
[Ashok] You know the real India better than me.
You know, my mom, she was the one who encouraged me to go to America and study.
Pinky really loved her.
You know, sir, Pinky Madam told me that you are a great man who is going to do great things in India, sir.
When did she say that?
The morning she left.
She was crying the entire way to the airport, sir. [clicks tongue]
And she told me that you will not let Mukesh Sir tell you what to do.
And that she believes in you.
She’ll come back to you, sir.
She’s coming back. I can feel it.
I can feel it, too, sir.
How are you?
[in Hindi] Go get the car.
[in English] Get the car.
She said that?
Don’t worry. I’m handling it.
[Ashok] You’re probably happy she’s gone.
[Mukesh] That’s not true. I want your happiness, bhai.
I’m gonna go there and talk to her.
Wait, stop. Ashok.
No, I need to talk to her–
You can’t call her like this.
Stop pleading like this. You’ll regret it.
The only thing I regret is letting her drive that night.
[Mukesh] It’s not your fault. You know.
It is my fault.
[Mukesh] Listen, I can stay with you as long as you like.
Let me order that pizza which you like, that macaroni one. [chuckles]
[Ashok] I’m sorry, bhai. Without you, I’d…
[in Hindi] Look what I brought for you, sir.
Nice and hot okra.
[in English] I don’t want food right now.
Just like we had the other night, sir.
[in Hindi] Nice and crispy, check it out.
[in English] I don’t give a shit.
[in Hindi] Don’t say that. Have a little bit.
[in English] I’m not hungry!
Get lost, please.
[in Hindi] He doesn’t feel like it. Why’re you up in his ass?
Get rid of it, sister-fucker!
[Ashok in English] Can you just leave me alone for a second?
[in Hindi] Until Ashok Sir calls you, don’t hover like a fly!
[Balram in English] The desire to be a servant had been bred into me, poured into my blood, hammered into my skull.
Ninety-three hundred rupees, a strange sum, almost three months my salary but not quite.
Maybe she started with 10,000 and then deducted 700?
No, no, no.
That is not how rich people think.
[chuckling] Have you not learned anything, you idiot?
If she thought she owed you 10,000, she truly owed you ten times more.
Ten times more. No! A hundred times more. A hundred times more.
They made me sign that confession, and I asked for nothing in return.
Why did I not ask? I didn’t even think to ask.
I didn’t even think to ask.
[in Hindi] Have you ever thought about what happens to you in the future?
As long as you have eyes, you’ll work.
But when you turn 50-55, they’ll kick your ass out.
If you’ve saved some money, you can buy a little shack.
But if you’re clever like me and earn extra money, then maybe more.
That’s the best case scenario.
Imagine your boss kicks you out without any reason.
Or you get into an accident!
You’ll be dead!
[Hindi song playing]
Hey, Country Mouse…
[in English] Everything’s fine?
[in Hindi] First class.
I hate to tell you this, but all the drivers are talking about you.
That you sit in your boss’ car alone… muttering away to yourself.
Is it true?
[gunshots on TV]
[Balram in English] I would not let him tell me… my fate was a shack in a slum.
Over the next weeks, I learned the ways drivers cheat their masters.
[both speaking Hindi]
[Balram in English] Number one, give your master phony invoices for repairs that are not necessary.
Thank you, sir.
Two, sell your master’s petrol to other drivers.
As you gain confidence, cruise around picking up and dropping off paying customers.
Delhi has many pickup points.
Over time, you will learn them all.
[Balram in English] When I looked at that cash, I didn’t feel guilt.
I felt rage.
There are only two castes in India.
I was growing a belly at last.
[in Hindi] Ashok Sir, I’ll fuck your mother.
I’m trying to drive. I can’t pay attention like this.
You’re a eunuch, you motherfucker! A eunuch!
[in English] I know what you were doing.
Sir, please don’t get upset with me.
You were at the temple offering prayers for my health.
Yes, sir. I was so worried for you, sir.
[in Hindi] I made an offering of 101 rupees in your name.
[in English] Come inside. Sit with me.
Is this really where you live?
It’s so damp, and the smell…
This place is like the Taj Mahal for me, sir.
Taj Mahal… [chuckles]
Taj Mahal is a tomb, Balram. You don’t live in Taj Mahal.
I have never done what I wanted to do with my life.
What did you want to do, sir?
Or produce it anyway.
You know, I lived in the US for so many years, and I’d try to be like them.
[in Hindi] But I’m fucking Indian at heart, after all.
[in English] But we’re fucking Indians.
I want to go to Bangalore and change my country’s future.
That’s what I want to do.
Sir, you can do anything you want, sir.
Sir, you are a man of quality.
[Ashok chuckling] Man of quality.
[in English] ♪ You and I ♪
♪ We live in paradise ♪
♪ But we refuse to see it ♪
[in Hindi] Incredible! Incredible, sir!
Very good, sir! That was great fun!
[in English] Thank you, Balram.
Sir, I never knew you could sing like this.
No, sir. Really, sir.
[in Hindi] I also dabble in singing, sir.
[in English] Really?
Come on, sing it for me. Yeah.
[in Hindi] All right, sir. I’ll sing a little bit.
My Granny taught me.
[in English] Go ahead.
[in Hindi] ♪ O Murari, what can be said of you? ♪
♪ Said of you… ♪
♪ O Murari, what can be said of you? ♪
♪ Said of you… ♪
♪ In this world of yours I don’t want to live ♪
♪ To live! ♪
♪ In this world of yours, I don’t want… ♪
[both] ♪ To live! ♪
[in English] Fuck it, we should form a band, Balram.
Yeah, you and I? Fucking kill it.
[in Hindi] Yes, sir, absolutely, sir.
[in English] I wish I had a simple life like you, you know?
My sweet Balram-ji.
You’re so sweet.
[Balram in English] I see you’ve arrived in my glorious capital, sir.
Perhaps we can have a drink when you visit Bangalore.
You know, I would not be able to afford even one Johnnie Walker Black with the money I cheated from my ex-employer, or get a room in this five-star hotel with the money Pinky Madam had given me.
Men born in the light, like my master, have the choice to be good.
Men born in the coop, like me, we don’t have that choice.
[male reporter on car radio] The opposition party and underdog, the Great Socialist, hopes for support from rural India.
[Mukesh] Her party is a mess.
This government is going to win this time for sure.
We just need to keep paying them until the elections.
[Ashok] I can’t keep doing this.
[Mukesh] Things will change, and then you do what you want to do.
[Ashok] It’s getting tough.
[Mukesh in Hindi] What the fuck was that?
[in English] Who told you to do that? Can you believe that?
Why did you give him money, Balram?
[in Hindi] Turn off the radio, asshole!
This sister-fucker thinks he’s doing charity.
[in English] Why’d he do that?
[in Hindi] Is that your father’s money, dickhead?
[in English] Who do you think you are?
Sorry, sir. It won’t happen again.
[Balram] Be careful what you say around drivers.
We have grown skilled at reading lips.
I was certain I saw the Mongoose say my name, and then a word no servant wants to hear,
To the Parliament House.
My phone. [sighs]
Just keep it in the car.
[Balram] This was at least two years’ salary, maybe three.
I was worth more.
Over the next days, I tried hard not to look at the red bag.
The city knew something was burning inside of me, and she burned too.
[Balram in Hindi] Dad?
Even if you were to steal it… it wouldn’t be stealing.
Mr. Ashok bribes politicians in order not to pay taxes.
So who is he stealing from?
The ordinary people of this country.
[vehicle horns blaring]
[Ashok in English] Let’s go.
Balram, hey? Let’s go.
It’ll be a couple of hours.
[muffled announcement on PA system]
[Balram] What would my destination be if I came here with the red bag?
The pigeons, the dog, the station.
They could sense it.
A rooster was trying to escape from the coop.
What would Mr. Ashok do to my family?
Sir, there is something…
There is something I want to tell you, sir.
Yeah. Go ahead.
Sir, I want to smash your skull and steal your money.
[Ashok] I know what you’re thinking.
You miss home, don’t you?
Plan a trip back.
Don’t worry about the expenses. Here.
Yeah? Good night.
[Balram] He only gave me enough for a oneway ticket.
[children speaking Hindi]
[both laughing maniacally]
[male reporter on car radio] Upending all expectations and with the support of the poor…
[cheering and shouting]
…the Great Socialist has won a vast majority of the votes saying, “There is no water in our taps, and what did the rich politicians in Delhi give us?”
“Can a poor man drink a phone when he is thirsty?”
[Ashok] We went to the wrong side.
[in Hindi] Turn that shit off, asshole!
[radio turns off]
[in English] I can’t hear you. Say that again?
I get it. Move! Back off!
Yeah. All the idiot villagers voted for her.
What the fuck are we gonna do now?
[in Hindi] Drive, sister-fucker! Why’d you come this way?
[crowd chanting in Hindi] Long live socialism!
[chanting gets louder]
[Ashok in English] Father sends his warm congratulations.
We’re all very happy for your success.
So sweet of you.
As a matter of fact, we would like to show our appreciation by donating one million rupees to your party.
[in Hindi] Is that how much you paid the opposition party, fucker?
We want four million rupees. Monday night, Sheraton Hotel.
[in Hindi] I took a bus from the village, then caught a train… and got here after asking around about you.
Granny said you would look after me and help me become a driver.
Who are you?
Aunt Lattu’s fourth son.
What’s in your hand?
Show it to me.
[Kusum] My dear grandson, it has been seven months and two days… since you sent us money.
The city has corrupted your soul.
Life has become hard here. Lord Indra is unhappy.
You must send us money again.
I have arranged for your wedding.
If you don’t come here, we will send the girl to you by bus.
If you refuse, we will write a letter explaining everything and send it to your master.
[Balram] Is she really going to marry me off?
[Dharam in English] Yes, uncle.
Turn around, I’m going to hit you again.
[Balram] The next morning, Mr. Ashok did something he had never done.
[Ashok] Who is this?
[Balram] He gave me a day off.
[Ashok] Your nephew?
Ji, sir. My family.
[Balram in English] But by now, I knew the rich never give anything for free.
He had found my replacement.
That’s when we saw the creature that gets born only once every generation… the white tiger.
Iqbal, that great Muslim poet, was right when he wrote,
“The moment you recognize what is beautiful in this world, you stop being a slave.”
I hoped the next morning when I didn’t return, he’d know to run.
[car door closes]
The Sheraton, sir?
Yeah, the Sheraton.
[Ashok] Pinky called.
She wants to know if I’ll move back to New York.
Will you be going, sir?
And pretend to be someone I’m not? This is my country after all.
There is a story about a cunning Brahmin trying to trick the Buddha?
The Brahmin asks,
“Master, do you consider yourself man or God?”
To which the Buddha smiles and says, “Neither.”
“I’m just one who has woken up while the rest of you are still sleeping.”
What’s wrong? Why’d you stop?
There is something wrong with the wheel, sir.
Just give me a minute, sir. I’ll go check.
There’s something off with the wheel.
Maybe we should call for help.
We should call for help!
Sir, who will come here, sir?
If you can just step out, sir, we can fix it together.
No, no. It’s raining. Let’s call for help.
What to do, sir? You will get late otherwise.
If you can just step outside, it won’t take much time.
Be careful about the bottle.
I’ll just put it out of the way.
It seems fine to me.
You should’ve found a replacement a long time ago!
[whispering in Hindi]
[train horn blaring]
[train horn blowing]
I am not a politician.
They are extraordinary men who can kill and move on.
Not me. I didn’t leave this room for four weeks until my nerves were calm.
The last stage in my amazing success story
was to go from social entrepreneur to business entrepreneur.
This was not easy.
But I had an edge.
I had come to Bangalore, and Mr. Ashok had told me the future.
When I saw all those drivers
coming in and out of the call centers to America,
I knew what my place would be.
But how would I get rid of the competition?
Then I wondered, “What would Mr. Ashok do?”
I just wanted to make a small offering of my gratitude to you.
For all the good you’re going to do for me.
Don’t worry. It wasn’t all of it, but it was enough.
You know why they never found me?
Because my face could be the face of half the men in India.
[police siren wailing]
The police arrested all the call-center drivers for expired licenses.
Entrepreneurs create opportunity.
That’s how I got my own startup.
White Tiger Drivers.
I’ve got 30 drivers who work in shifts with 26 vehicles,
all air-conditioned for the summer months.
Put together with my bank holdings,
and I am worth 15 times the sum I borrowed from Mr. Ashok.
Your Excellency, please visit my website.
If you like what you see, you can click where it says…
That’s what I call myself these days.
But I don’t treat my drivers like servants.
I don’t care about their religion, and I certainly don’t call them my family.
They are my employees.
I make them sign a contract, and I sign it too.
And if there is a problem,
I don’t let my drivers take the blame.
[man] Can’t we take him to the hospital?
That’s the brother of the dead boy.
And your driver that hit him is right there.
[Balram] Namaskar, my name is Ashok Sharma.
I am the owner of this vehicle. The blood is on my hands, not my driver.
It’s a terrible tragedy that has happened, but it’s late…
[Balram] I choose to do things differently than my masters.
I live in the light now.
[Balram] I want to express my deep sorrow at the loss of your son, aunty.
There is 40,000 rupees in this.
I don’t give it to you because I need to, but because I want to.
[Balram in Kannada] Do you understand?
[in English] And I want to help your other son.
He can come and be a driver with me, and I will take care of him.
[Balram] I do think about my ex a lot, and I do miss him.
He didn’t deserve his fate.
Ah, I should have cut the Mongoose’s neck.
[Balram] I’ll never know what happened to my family.
I could only wonder.
But for the poor, there are only two ways to get to the top, crime or politics.
Is it like that in your country too?
Do you think about your mom and dad?
Give me another glass of milk, won’t you, uncle?
And a bowl of ice cream too.
You know ice cream is for Sundays.
No. It’s for today.
[Balram] Smart boy.
It’s this car?
[car doors opening]
[camera shutters clicking]
Your Excellency, it’s me from our email, sir.
The White Tiger, Ashok Sharma. How are you?
We great entrepreneurs always have our sights set on tomorrow.
With all the American companies coming to Bangalore, the white people need a place to sleep.
[Jiabao] Thank you, sir.
Enjoy India, sir.
White people are on their way out, you know.
They’ll be finished within our lifetime.
It’s the century of the brown man and the yellow man, and God save everybody else.
And sometimes I think, even if they did catch me, I’ll never say I made a mistake.
It was all worthwhile to know, just for a day, just for an hour, just for a minute, what it means not to be a servant.
[knocking at door]
Now, what happens in a typical Hindi film about murder?
A poor man kills a rich man, and then gets nightmares about the dead man pursuing him, screaming, “Murderer! Shame!”
It doesn’t happen like that.
The real nightmare is the other kind where you feel like you didn’t do it, that you didn’t kill your master, that you lost your nerve, and that you’re still a servant to another man.
But then you wake up… the sweating stops, your heartbeat slows.
The nightmare is over.
You did do it.
You killed your master.
I’ve switched sides.
I’ve made it. I’ve broken out of the coop.
[“Jungle Mantra” by DIVINE playing]
[singing in Hindi]
[in English] ♪ Yeah, gotta get mine ♪
♪ Any means, never sleep I don’t get tired ♪
♪ Feelin’ big time ♪
♪ I don’t wanna penny pinch Tryna flip dimes ♪
♪ What’s your life like? Here’s mine ♪
♪ High-speed chase Ever seen pigs fly? ♪
♪ Slaves to their badges Hatin’ my blackness across the atlas ♪
♪ Fatal attraction, money like magnets ♪
♪ Yeah, I gotta have it ♪
♪ I’m a fanatic ♪
♪ Chasin’ it, takin’ it Playin’ in traffic ♪
♪ Get it and stack it ♪
♪ You live in areas not in my bracket ♪
♪ Hustler habit Put what I earn in my casket ♪
♪ Ashes to ashes, yeah ♪
[singing in Hindi]
[rapping in Hindi]
[singing in Hindi]
[in English] ♪ Flip the jungle like a jungle gym ♪
♪ Flip the bricks It’s like I doubled them ♪
♪ Free ain’t free if not for every man ♪
♪ It’s different rules For everyone with tans ♪
♪ Cop a couple chains, couple gems ♪
♪ Coupled with the latest couples’ Benz ♪
♪ Unisex, the watch, the women win ♪
♪ The face don’t match The risk is meant for men ♪
♪ The poor are doomed To live amongst the sin ♪
♪ The rich uplift the rich And all their friends ♪
♪ If I rebel The cell, they’ll put me in ♪
♪ The jail you make for me You’re dwellin’ in ♪
♪ Makin’ dollars makes a lot of sense ♪
♪ Watch my masters live off my expense ♪
♪ Versace robe A penthouse at The Ritz ♪
♪ Rush the paper forth, in inches, blitz ♪
[singing in Hindi]
[rapping in Hindi]
[percussion music playing]