Ramin Bahrani has been close friends with novelist Aravind Adiga since college, inspiring Adiga to dedicate his 2008 Man Booker Prize-winning novel “The White Tiger” to Bahrani. That dedication on the novel’s very first page comes full circle on Netflix this December with the release of the film version of “The White Tiger” on the streaming platform. The adaptation of the celebrated picaresque is director Ramin Bahrani’s first feature film as a director since 2018’s “Fahrenheit 451” (which went to HBO) and 2014’s “99 Homes” before that. Watch the the first trailer below.
Leading the cast are Adarsh Gourav, Rajkummar Rao, and Priyanka Chopra Jonas in this darkly comic and energetic tale of Balram Halwai (Gourav), a young man whose low social stature in the Indian class system belies his sharp entrepreneurial eye. Journeying to Delhi, Balram becomes a driver for the affluent Ashok (Rao), and Balram’s entry into the world of the higher classes pulls back the curtain on an underbelly of corruption from which he must break free.
“The White Tiger” was originally slated to be directed by “In the Bedroom” Oscar-nominated filmmaker Todd Field, who also wrote an earlier version of the script. Legal entanglements between the American production companies and the Indian financier killed the project back in 2012.
“I remember reading early versions of ‘The White Tiger’ years before he finished it,” Bahrani said, according to Entertainment Weekly. “I thought it was amazing. I always wanted to make a film of it. I’m grateful he trusted me to do it.”
Starring as Ashok’s American wife, Pinky, Chopra Jones executive produces the film, along with Ava DuVernay. Of her character, Chopra Jonas said, “She comes in with this completely different perspective of life as it is in a developing country. That was really interesting for me to play, considering I’m an Indian… In my work in the U.S., I haven’t done a dramatic part like that. So that was very exciting to me.”
“It’s really about a man who just wants to be free, free to pursue the totality of his life,” Bahrani said of the story. “I think that’s something most of us understand now — a rigged system, chances that are denied, and the lengths we will go to make it in this world.”
“The White Tiger” will debut January 22 on Netflix following a limited theatrical release in December.