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‘The White Tiger’: Ramin Bahrani on How Adarsh Gourav Immersed Himself in His Breakout Role

Bahrani and Gourav talk bringing the adaptation of Aravind Adiga's beloved novel to the screen.

"The White Tiger"

Consider This: Conversations highlight television’s award-worthy productions through panel discussions with the artists themselves. The above video is presented by Netflix, produced by IndieWire’s Creative Producer Leonardo Adrian Garcia, and hosted by Eric Kohn.

Filmmaker Ramin Bahrani and Arayind Adiga have been kicking around ideas for collaborations for nearly three decades, dating back to their college days. Their creative chemistry was finally realized in Bahrani’s feature adaptation of Adiga’s novel “The White Tiger,” now a massive international hit streaming on Netflix. The-rags-to-riches tale follows a young man named Balram Halwai, whose low social stature in the Indian caste system belies his sharp entrepreneurial eye. Journeying to Delhi, he becomes a driver for the rich and pulls back the curtain on an underbelly of corruption from which he must break free.

Balram is played by 26-year-old actor Adarsh Gourav, who’s been starring in supporting parts for the last decade in India, but finally gets a breakout vehicle with “The White Tiger.” Gourav, as told to IndieWire’s Eric Kohn during a recent panel on the film, first read the novel when he was 13. He said one of the first things he was drawn to was how “Balram draws a parallel between people and animals. That was much like how I saw the world when I was 13 or 14. When I met anyone in person, I would always draw a parallel of them to an animal.”

To get ready for the role, Gourav lived in a small village in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand, and worked at a tea stall. “It was necessary for me to go to the village…that helped me get closer to understanding Balram,” Gourav said.

Bahrani said, “Adarsh is a new actor. He’s done supporting roles in India. It’s his first lead. It’s hard for people to realize, because they don’t know him, people think he is just that guy,” referring to his character. “But I can tell you, every single decision was a choice. It was all a choice.”

Bahrani said that while doing callbacks with actors who were his top choices for other roles, “I asked him to think about how [Balram] would walk in the beginning of the journey, how that would change in the second half…and how you would walk as an entrepreneur.”

While holding an audition for the character known as The Mongoose, Bahrani said that Gourav showed him 12 kinds of walks just for the beginning of Balram’s journey. “Even the way he walked and slung his arms around, it was all a choice,” Bahrani said. “Even when he picked his butt in the movie, or scratched his groin, it was a choice.”

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