The White Tiger Sensation Adarsh Gourav On How He Bagged The Film, His On-Screen Idols And More - EXCLUSIVE

Adarsh Gourav, whose outstanding performance in The White Tiger has won him exceptional praise globally, speaks to Subhash K Jha on the experience

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The White Tiger Sensation Adarsh Gourav On How He Bagged The Film, His On-Screen Idols And More - EXCLUSIVE
Adarsh, I first saw you in a film called Rukh, 5 years ago. Did you see the sudden global acclaim coming?
I am not one to over-think. I just feel good that our efforts in The White Tiger have been rewarded. It was important for us to be recognized in India as well. This is where the plot unfolds.

But the theme of caste and economic discrimination is germane to every society?
Absolutely, Sir! This discrimination between the haves and have-nots is universal. That’s why the novel (by Arvind Aadiga) won the Man Booker prize.

Look at the racial violence in America. Or a film like Parasites which also addressed the issue of socio-economic disparity, I like The White Tiger more, though?
That’s a huge compliment. We’ve worked really hard on giving a coherent shape to the novel. On a personal note, I’ve slogged hard to get the character in place.

Has it been a long struggle  for you as an outsider in the Hindi film industry? Were you disappointed when Rukh didn’t fetch you the desired  recognition?
Disappointment toh nahi hui. I never go into a role with any expectations except to do my best. I always harboured a deep desire to work not just in Hindi cinema but also Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and international cinema, if possible. That The White Tiger came to me was providential. But I never harboured any desire to be a star or anything like that. I grew up influenced by actors who were not necessarily stars.

Who are these actors?
Irrfan Khan, Naseeruddin Shah, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Om Puri, at some point I liked Aamir Khan. More than stardom, it was the idea of being in relevant cinema that appealed to me. Just having a romantic track in a big-budget film somehow didn’t appeal to me. I would have more fun playing the villain than the romantic hero. Not that I have anything but respect for mainstream cinema and I’ve great respect for mainstream actors and at some point I’d like to do a singing and dancing role.

How did The White Tiger come to you?
I read the book at 13. It was surprising because I wasn’t much into reading at that age. My parents had to push me  into reading while I preferred to play outside. But somehow Arvind Aadiga’s novel  found its way into our home, and I was hooked. I loved the way Balram saw the world and the way he named people around him after animals. I do that  too.

Really? I shudder to think which animal you’d name me after...
(laughs uproariously) The possibilities are limitless…But seriously I had great fun reading the novel. Cut to 2017, I was jobless. I was ready to do anything connected with cinema. I just wanted to be occupied and make some money. At that time, I got a call from casting director Tess Joseph. I had reached out to her earlier to let her know of my existence. As luck would have it, I was  called for the audition  of The White Tiger. My only motivation for doing the audition was to be called for more auditions. That I’d actually get the part of Balram was a thought that didn’t even cross my mind. I wanted to give a good audition. I did 2-3 scenes.

Did you prepare for the audition?
Of course, I always do. But only a 2-3 day preparation. Maine audition de diya. I felt nothing about it. After a while Tess called to say I was  shortlisted. That didn’t mean much. I’ve been shortlisted for a 100 roles. Out of which I’ve got 15 roles. So, an audition was nothing to celebrate. After the director Ramin Bharani joined in the third round of auditions, I began to get hopeful. I bought a shirt and trousers from the station for 100-150 rupees and wore them for my auditions. They would constantly tell me there were other actors under consideration for Balram’s part. But strangely I never saw anyone else. Sometimes I felt they were just fooling me about others, that they had already made up their mind to cast me.

So, when did you actually get hopeful?
Before Ramin left for LA, he told me I was under serious consideration. When Ramin called and he asked, ‘Would you like to play Balram?’ I can’t describe to you my emotions at that moment. Above all, I was relieved.

Obviously a lot of preparation went into playing the character?
Yes, the first thing I did was to find someone who would take me to a village in Jharkhand. But I had no friends from that area. Finally, a friend of a friend from Jharkhand agreed to take me to  his village, where I spent  a month. We had to use five modes of transportation to get there. I requested him not to tell anyone in the village, I was an actor.

That’s an exceptional level of preparation?
I got more than three months to prepare. Where do I get so much time to prepare over here? If one is a great actor like Naseer, Nawaz or Irrfan one can prepare in no time. A mediocre actor like me needs time. It’s like the brainy student who crams at the last minute and scores  90 percent, and the student who slogs the whole year and gets 50 percent.

By which yardstick are you a mediocre actor?
I have just started out. I’ve a lot to learn. After The White Tiger, I have no other assignment. There are talks. I want to take up projects that have something to say.

Image source: Instagram/gouravadarsh