Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Adarsh Gourav on representation in The White Tiger

Laura Harding, PA Deputy Entertainment Editor
·4-min read

Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Adarsh Gourav have spoken about the importance of representation of South Asian people in global cinema and said they hope their new Netflix film The White Tiger is a step in the right direction.

The pair star in the adaptation of Aravind Adiga’s Booker Prize-winning novel about the cultural tensions of modern-day India.

Gourav stars as Balram Halwai, a poor villager who rises to be a wealthy entrepreneur after he lands a job as a driver for a wealthy couple, played by Rajkummar Rao and Chopra Jonas.

The actress, who was a Bollywood superstar before she made the move to Hollywood and serves as an executive producer on the film, told the PA news agency: “We are one fifth of the world’s population, and you don’t see that representation in one fifth of the movies made, or television made, in global entertainment.

“So I think it’s extremely important and truly is a quest for me, as a producer, to align with South Asian stories where I can and to push a representation where I can, because there are many places that you can’t do it.”

Gourav said: “I think with this film, it will be a big source of encouragement for filmmakers from all over the world to come forward and share their own stories from their own countries and will perhaps resonate with the rest of the world.”

Adarsh Gourav, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Rajkummar Rao in The White Tiger (Tejinder Singh Khamkha/Netflix)
Adarsh Gourav, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Rajkummar Rao in The White Tiger (Tejinder Singh Khamkha/Netflix)

“It’s a very universal story and it’s very relatable. For me, I think I was getting to play two very diverse characters, both of which represented what India is, an India of light and an India of darkness.

“But that’s also representing what the entire world is. There’s always two sections of society that you always get to see and this is what drew me to the film.”

Chopra Jonas first shared pictures from the film on social media last year, saying “it’s a story that will make you feel uncomfortable”, and she said: “I think the fact that we have become so desensitised to the life that a lot of people, a huge population of the world (is living) – without any options, without any choices.

“Their birth right dictates their future and coming from a family, just like Adarsh said, that has given me options, and given me an ability to have a voice in my own life, it really made me uncomfortable, Balram’s journey made me root for him, and that’s what I felt when I read the book.

“Hence when it was being made, I kind of chased after it and offered my services to attach to the movie, because it’s just something that the world needs to sort of see.

“You know, novelists in history have always had the tough task of writing stories that self-examine inherent tensions in society and this is one of those.

“Aravind Adiga did such a great job of telling a story that is so universal, but specifically based in the class divide in India.”

Director Ramin Bahrani said he had been reading the book for almost four years before it was published because Adiga is a close friend.

He added: “From the first time I read it, I was just kind of blown away, the book jumps out of your hands, especially the lead character, Balram, this poor kid from a village who grows up to be a successful entrepreneur by doing some very strange things.

“And he’s just so electric, alive, sarcastic, satirical. His observations are so witty and bizarre. You just wanted to get that guy into a movie.

“This is my seventh feature film; almost all of them have somehow dealt with issues of social inequality or other types of pressure; how underdogs or underclass or immigrant characters feel.

“So in that way I found the film to be very thematically at home to me in what interests me in the world. And it’s not everyday you see a movie about the servant and really get it in a non-romantic way from their perspective.”

The White Tiger is out now on Netflix.