The White Tiger: What you need to know

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  • Starring and produced by Priyanka Chopra Jonas, it’s the Netflix film everyone’s talking about...

    Fear not, Joey Exotic isn’t making a comeback (that we know of anyway). The White Tiger is the new Netflix film written and directed by Ramin Bahrani, adapted from Aravind Adiga’s New York Times best-selling novel. The film, set in India, stars Adarsh Gourav, Rajkummar Rao and – perhaps most famously – Priyanka Chopra Jonas, who also produces. Here’s what you need to know….

    The film’s lead, Adarsh (who plays Balram Halwai) was an unknown actor.

    “We went through a whole series of auditions with him [Adarsh],” explains writer/director Ramin Bahrani. “I coupled him with a few actors and pushed him into some of the harder scenes; he was endlessly inventive and alive in each moment. He had done some supporting roles in India, but he’d never been the lead. There were  movie stars, including international stars that I admire and want to work with who considered  the role, but it was Adarsh’s from the moment he walked in.”

    The story focuses on Balram, a poor villager with dreams of becoming a successful entrepreneur.

    After becoming a driver for wealthy couple Ashok (Rajkummar Rao) and Pinky (Priyanka Chopra Jonas) who have recently returned to India from America, he makes himself indispensable. So far so good, until one fateful night when he learns how they really feel about him.

    The Indian crew was important.

    “I made a decision very early on that I wanted to work with a  majority Indian crew,” explains Bahrani. “I brought my production designer from North Carolina, my cinematographer  from Italy, and a DGA AD from NYC. Other than that, the cast and crew who helped bring my  vision of Aravind’s book to life were 99% Indian. They helped make it a more authentic film.”

    So was the music.

    In the novel, Aravind references popular Western tracks that Ashok was listening to after returning from America, says Bahrani. “It was fun to bring in some big  tracks from that era, like the Gorillaz and Fat Joe, to bring a different life and energy – and then compliment them with some awesome Indian songs, including Beware the Boys featuring Jay-Z.  It was also really awesome to work with Divine, Pusha T, and Vince Staples on the original song  for the end of the film. I love Divine’s music.”

    Priyanka auditioned at her house.

    We actually held the audition in a little studio space at her home, just me, her and my iPhone,” Bahrani explains. “We did a tricky scene, one that I had always struggled with, and she tried something really unusual with it that just worked. No other actress had been able to nail that beat in the auditions. I was so impressed. It took guts and was instinctually correct. Pinky is strong, smart, sarcastic, independent — she’s got attitude, but behind that, you also sense that she’s a good person. And there’s something about  that in Priyanka as a real person. She’s ambitious, strong, she’s a leader, but she’s also a genuine and nice person — so it all just matched.”

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