‘The White Tiger’ on Netflix: Everything to Know About the Celebrated Indian Drama

The White Tiger will premiere on Netflix on Friday, Jan. 22. Based on the novel of the same name by Aravind Adiga, the Indian drama tells the inspiring story of a poor man from a small village who rises up through his country’s caste system to become a successful business owner.

‘The White Tiger’ is based on an award-winning 2008 bestseller

The cast of Netflix's 'The White Tiger,' inlcuding Priyanka Chopra.
The cast of Netflix’s ‘The White Tiger,’ including Priyanka Chopra. | Netflix

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The White Tiger is adapted from Adiga’s novel, which released in 2008. The book went on to become a New York Times Bestseller and won the 40th Man Booker Prize, a prestigious award for fiction writing. Adiga told the New York Times that he wanted his novel to give a voice to the vast Indian working class.

“This voice was not captured,” he explained. “And I wanted to do so without sentimentality or portraying them as mirthless humorless weaklings as they are usually.”

The film stars Adarsh Gourav as the protagonist, Balram. Balram starts as a poor, working-class driver who lands a job as a chauffeur for a wealthy couple (Priyanka Chopra and Rajkummar Rao) in Delhi. Initially, he believes that sticking with them is his ticket to prosperity, but a series of dire events leads him down the path to finding success on his own terms.

The film has had a warm reception from critics so far, sporting an 89% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

“Well-acted and beautifully made,” the site’s consensus reads. “The White Tiger distills the strengths of its source material into a grimly compelling drama.”

“Ramin Bahrani offers a kinetic and textured satirical commentary on caste friction in modern India with Adarsh Gourav serving up an immensely watchable leading performance,” Empire Magazine’s Hannah Flint wrote in her review of the film.

The film comes from a celebrated director

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The White Tiger is written and directed by Ramin Bahrani, an acclaimed Iranian-American filmmaker known for making grounded films with a strong social-conscious. His 2007 breakthrough, Chop Shop, about a poor Latino street orphan in Queens, was hailed by the likes of Roger Ebert as a masterpiece.

Bahrani’s recent work includes the housing crisis drama 99 Homes with Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon, and an adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s cautionary classic Fahrenheit 451 with Michael B. Jordan for HBO Films.

Due to the disruptive impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has expanded the eligibility window for the 2021 Academy Awards through the end of February. Given its acclaim, Netflix might be hoping that The White Tiger will net some nominations at the event. Though it is set in India and South Asia, the film was primarily shot in English, meaning that it won’t be eligible for Best Foreign Language Film.

Based on Oscar projections from Variety, The White Tiger is considered a longshot for Best Adapted Screenplay but is still part of the conversation. This is hardly surprising, given the presence of presumed heavyweights like Nomadland and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom in the category.