‘The White Tiger’: The Unusual Way Adarsh Gourav Prepared for His Role As Balram

The White Tiger is trending as one of Netflix’s top 10 movies, and a lot of the film’s hype has to do with Adarsh Gourav’s gripping performance. Opposite Priyanka Chopra and Rajkummar Rao, Gourav plays Balram Halwai, a poor man who realizes he is imprisoned in the mindset of servitude and decides to make a momentous change in his life. 

In a recent interview, Gourav said he needed to understand his character’s complexities before filming. So, to prepare for the role, he put himself through some pretty unusual situations. 

Adarsh Gourav in 'The White Tiger'
Adarsh Gourav in ‘The White Tiger’ | Tejinder Singh Khamkha​/Netflix

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

Helmed by American director Ramin Bahrani, The White Tiger is an adaptation of Australian-Indian author Aravind Adiga’s 2008 Booker Prize-winning novel. Adiga and Bahrani met in college, and when Adiga sent the filmmaker his manuscript for the book in 2004, Bahrani knew it was something special. 

The White Tiger is centered on Balram, a poor Indian villager who is pushed into servitude by his grandmother, despite his intelligence and ambition. He lands himself a job as a driver for a wealthy, politically connected family. But when they attempt to frame him for a fatal car accident, Balram decides to change his life trajectory.

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Adarsh Gourav is a rising actor in India

Gourav is an actor and classically trained singer whose film career began in 2010 when he starred in Shah Rukh Khan’s Bollywood blockbuster, My Name Is Khan. As a young actor, he appeared in movies like Banana and Rukh. And in 2016, Gourav took a break from work and attended The Drama School Mumbai.

After graduating, the actor landed recurring roles on series like Die Trying, Leila, and Hostel Daze. In the summer of 2019, Gourav auditioned for The White Tiger and was cast in the leading role.

‘The White Tiger’ star prepped for his role in an unconventional way

In a recent interview with NPR, Gourav and Bahrani talked about the unconventional methods the actor used to prepare for his role as Balram. Without telling anyone he was an actor, Gourav moved to a remote Indian village where he lived incognito for some time. He later went back to the city and got a job at a tea shop cleaning floors and dishes. 

“After I got cast for the film, I spent a couple of weeks in a village,” Gourav said. “And I traveled to New Delhi, and I worked on a small food cart where I was washing plates and running small errands for the guy who ran the stall — I think it was very important for me to do that to really understand where Balram was coming from.”

After working at the food stall, Gourav found a job loading sharp pieces of metal. “Some men were loading huge pieces of sharp metal into a truck, and they just called him over and said, start — they didn’t ask him if you wanted a job,” Bahrani said. “They just said, start loading this metal into a truck.”

“He cut up his hands,” The White Tiger director added. “They paid him a very small amount of money. And he showed up at the office the next day with totally cut up hands. We brought him a doctor.”

The White Tiger is currently streaming on Netflix.