The White Tiger adaptation was a labour of love for two lifelong friends

By February 2, 2021Adaptations, News

The White Tiger adaptation was released this year, three years after the novel’s publication.

Based on Aravind Adiga’s award-winning debut novel released in 2008, the American drama film will be directed by Ramin Bahrani, and will star Adarsh Gourav in his debut role. Gourav will be joined by Rajkummar Rao and Priyanka Chopra.

The story follows Balram, a boy from a poor Indian village who was forced to leave school with only his dreams, wit and cunning to free himself out of poverty.

After Adiga published his book, he attempted to adapt it into a movie in 2010 but it could not be made for years.  The White Tiger finally premiered at Las Vegas on 6th January 2021 and released globally on Netflix on 22nd January.

Director Ramin Bahrani, who is Iranian American, met the Indian author at college, “We connected on being outsiders on a predominantly white campus. We spoke of books, films, and our ambitions. I wanted to be a filmmaker and he was on his way to becoming a novelist.”

Adiga ended up dedicating his debut novel to Bahrani as a testament to their friendship.

Photo credit: Singh Tejinder / Netflix

Ramin and Aravind have been friends for years, and were talking about The White Tiger for almost three decades.

“I was blown away the first time he gave it to me,” Ramin said in the production notes. “It was an amazing story with vibrant, funny, subversive writing. It was gripping, totally engrossing.”

The pair give credit to the other for inspiration and support through each other’s projects.

“Not many dreams in life come true, but this one has: 12 years later, my novel has become a film, and Ramin Bahrani is the director,” Aravind said within the production notes. “Witty, provocative, and moving, the film he has made not only brings my book to life, but transcends it.”

Ramin ensured The White Tiger stayed true to its first-person narration.

“I had only used voiceover in a short film, Plastic Bag, so I studied favourites like Jules and Jim, Fight Club, and Goodfellas,” Ramin noted. “Balram’s voiceover helped tell the sprawling tale, spanning his childhood, his life as a servant, and his rise to successful entrepreneur. His sarcastic social observations also helped provide specific cultural context and detail.”

The Netflix film attempts to stay true to the book, although director Ramin admitted there is always difficulty in adapting the full novel into a 2-hour movie.

“That was very tough,” Ramin told journalists about cutting scenes. “You’re trying to capture a tone, that was a constant thought in my head — what is the tone of the film? Because the novel was very fun: it’s very fast, it’s quirky, it’s funny, it’s satirical but then in the middle of the film, right dead set in the center of the book and in the film, something happens and from there moving forward, it shifts to something a little bit darker and weirder.”

“[The novel] still has the humour, but it’s darker and we constantly had our eye on that while writing the script and making the film.”

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