5 Thoughts I Had While Watching The White Tiger Trailer. Love Priyanka Chopra, The Actor, But She’s Doing Brilliant As A Producer Too
On Wednesday evening, Netflix dropped the trailer for Ramin Bahrani’s adaptation of Aravind Adiga’s Man Booker Prize winning novel, The White Tiger. The film stars Priyanka Chopra, whose Purple Pebble Pictures is also executive producing the film, alongside Rajkummar Rao and newcomer Adarsh Gourav. Other than a story that’s already made waves for capturing the voice of the underclass in rural India juxtaposed with the bright flashing lights of its rich, urban class, the film has Emmy winner and Academy Award nominee Ava DuVernay as one of the executive producers. It is helmed by Chop Shop and Fahrenheit 451 director Ramin Bahrani, who is one of author Aravind Adiga’s closest friends, having studied together at Columbia University. In fact, you could say Bahrani was destined to direct the film, since Adiga dedicated the 2008 book to him.
The White Tiger, a New York Times Bestseller, is a dark humour laden perspective at the caste and class struggle in India. It is told through the voice of Balram Halwai, a driver who ferries around his master’s America-returned son Ashok and his wife, Pinky, in Delhi. The more he spends time in the city, observing closely the stark differences in the lives of the rich and the poor, the Light and the Darkness, he is convinced that there’s only one way he can escape it. And it’s not pretty. The White Tiger is often compared to Vikas Swarup’s novel, Q&A, which inspired Danny Boyle’s Oscar winner, Slumdog Millionaire. Albeit, the former is a much more darker, grittier take than the romanticised Slumdog.
The comparisons are of course inevitable once the film releases. But one can always hope it is’t as condescending in its portrayal of India as Slumdog Millionaire was.
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Here are 5 thoughts I had while watching The White Tiger trailer:
1. Priyanka Chopra, the actor, is always a treat to watch. But she’s killing it as a producer too!
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In #TheWhiteTiger, I play the role of Pinky madam, who is a first generation immigrant in the US. She is in India with her husband, who is travelling for business. And then… life changes! Pinky madam is such a specific character, to play her unravelling in the story was such a joy. This is a story that needs to be told and it comes alive with its characters so compellingly in Ramin’s hands. The White Tiger, coming soon to Netflix globally. 📸- @khamkhaphotoartist @netflixfilm @netflixqueue @netflix_in @gouravadarsh @rajkummar_rao @vjymaurya @maheshmanjrekar @mukul.deora @Ava @purplepebblepictures @tessjosephcasting @tessjoseph19 @srishtibehlarya #AravindAdiga
I have no doubts that PeeCee the actor is going to kill it in her role as Pinky Madam. If you’ve read the book, you’ll know that her character sets things in motion that kickstart Balram’s transformation. The trailer already has fans singing her praise. And if director Ramin Bahrani is to be believe, not just her Indian audience, but Priyanka Chopra Jonas’ performance is going to blow the minds of her Hollywood audience too.
Bahrani, in an interview with Deadline, said, “Priyanka contacted me after reading Aravind’s book and advocated to be part of it. She loved its strong social themes and had been helping a lot of female filmmakers there trying to tell stories about something. And she had to act in the movie and was willing to do an audition for me and she nailed it. You’re going to see a performance from her that nobody in the western world has seen from her. In over in India she’s a great actor, but here, what she has done is a revelation.”
And indeed, I’m loving that PeeCee is giving some solid thought to the projects she picks up to produce, from regional films like Paani and Ventilator (Marathi) to mainstream Bollywood films by female directors like The Sky Is Pink (directed by Shonali Bose) and some Asian representation in Hollywood, like a wedding themed romantic-comedy she is collaborating on with Mindy Kaling! And of course, the recently released Evil Eye, which is part of the horror series of short features under the Welcome To The Blumhouse series.
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2. But I think Adarsh Gourav is going to steal everyone’s thunder here!
Adarsh Gourav is the titular White Tiger, and this roar in the trailer is merely that, a trailer of what’s to come, methinks. He commands your attention instantly, and that’s saying something, when you’re in the frame with actors like Rajkummar Rao. It’s great since he is the lead, and turns out, he already has fans impressed. I was scrolling through the comments after watching the trailer on YouTube, and the way he delivers the last dialogue, “It’s the century of the brown man and the yellow man. God save everybody else,” how could they not be excited to see what else he has in store!
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Unveiling the first look of the film THE WHITE TIGER, the screen adaptation of the Man Booker Prize Winner by Aravind Adiga. So excited to share this with everybody. Lots more coming up soon! Images by @khamkhaphotoartist @priyankachopra @rajkummar_rao @vjymaurya @tessjoseph19 @tessjosephcasting @netflixfilm @netflixqueue @netflix_in @mukul.deora @ava
3. I’m curious to see the portrayal of women in this social commentary about caste and class inequality.
The book is predominantly a man’s struggle, but I have high hopes that with women like Ava DuVernay and Priyanka Chopra backing the project, we could get a more nuanced look at women’s position in the caste and class struggle and how it influences their decisions, lives and how the men react to them. That would make the social commentary all the more relevant to today’s socio-political scenario.
4. The White Tiger throws some shade at Slumdog Millionaire. So here’s hoping it hasn’t made the same mistakes.
In one of the scenes showcased in the trailer, the voiceover has Gourav’s Balram saying that in real life, there’s no game show that a man can win to earn millions and transcend from the Darkness (the underclass) into the Light (the rich, upper class). Obviously, that’s a smart shade thrown at the plot of Slumdog Millionaire, which has the protagonist play a KBC-like game show, and each question corresponds to an important incident in his life that helps him answer the question.
Now, as I mentioned before, the comparisons between the two movies are going to be inevitable. Both have similar narrative styles, comment on the same class and caste tussle in India, and are stories of men who rise from one end to the other through a myriad of experiences. The White Tiger is definitely a darker shade. And I hope that it is not as condescending in its portrayal of India as Slumdog was. While the latter won an Oscar and was appreciated by the West, Indians were left feeling rather annoyed. We’re not all slums and poverty and filth. If anything, that is superficial, and neither delves deeper into the grit and slime nor touches the crème of the Indian high society. I hope The White Tiger sets the tone right.
Furthermore, I really enjoyed Q&A, and was mighty pissed when Slumdog Millionaire literally left all the good parts behind and adapted just the ‘poverty picture’ of India. So let’s hope that’s not the disappoint I’m met with here.
5. Request to fellow audience, don’t make a fuss about accents again. Sigh.
I know how much people complain every time Indian actors speak in English, especially when it is Priyanka Chopra. I, for one, thought everybody spoke rather well, and Adarsh Gourav nailed it with his dialogue delivery. As for PeeCee and Rajkummar Rao, they’re both playing NRIs so if they’ve got that accent, then it’s actually good attention to detail.
Some might also complain why a film about India must be in English instead of Hindi, for authenticity. But I believe the impact of certain conversations and dialogues lifted from the quotes in the novel might be lost in translation. And besides, in a film about class struggle, the haves and have nots, the capitalists and the proletariat, what better way to show the stark difference than using English to communicate.
The White Tiger will have a select theatre release in December on drop on Netflix in January.
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