An ambitious Indian driver uses his wit and cunning to escape from poverty and rise to the top. An epic journey based on the New York Times bestseller.
Entrepreneur Balram Halwai emails Wen Jiabao, requesting a meeting, and relating his life story. He states his belief that the Indian underclass is trapped in a perpetual state of servitude, like chickens in a chicken coop.
As a child in Laxmangarh, Balram is offered a scholarship to a school in Delhi because of his advanced academics. He is told that he is a “white tiger,” someone who gets born only once in a generation. However when his father is unable to pay off The Stork, the village landlord, Balram’s grandmother forces him to work in the village’s tea stall, and he never returns to school.
As an adult, Balram aspires to become a chauffeur for The Stork’s son Ashok, who has returned from the United States with his New York-raised wife Pinky. He is hired as the family’s second driver. The primary driver of the family is hiding that he is a muslim because The Stork hates muslims. Balram blackmails him so that he can be Ashok and Pinky’s driver in Delhi. In contrast to other members of their family, Ashok and Pinky generally treat Balram with respect and eventually become closer to him, though they still view him as a servant.
On Pinky’s birthday, she and Ashok get drunk and force Balram to let Pinky drive, which results in her accidentally hitting and killing a child. The Stork’s family coerces Balram into signing a confession, and though no-one is charged, Balram is left shaken by this. Pinky leaves Ashok, leaving Balram to emotionally support him. However, Balram begins to take advantage of Ashok by charging him with fake repair receipts and using the car as an unlicensed taxi. Balram gets paranoid about being replaced.
Balram’s grandmother unexpectedly sends one of his younger nephews to live with him in order to learn how to become a driver like Balram. This setback, as well as learning that Ashok has hired a new driver to replace Balram, causes him to have an epiphany. Balram murders Ashok and absconds with a large amount of bribe money meant for Indian politicians, fleeing the city with his nephew. An arrest warrant is put out for Balram but he evades capture.
Re-establishing himself in Bangalore, Balram begins a private taxi service for call center workers. He treats his drivers as employees and not as servants, and takes personal and financial responsibility for any incidents caused by them. As he signs off the email, Balram reveals that he has also changed his name, to that of Ashok Sharma.