The Netflix thriller, written by Bahrani and based off Adiga’s 2008 novel, follows a poor man’s rise through the ranks of India’s caste system to achieve freedom. Upon receiving the Oscar nomination on Monday, Bahrani walked Deadline through the process of bringing his friend’s words to screen.
To tackle The White Tiger, Bahrani said he needed to revisit his Columbia University days and remember the “youthful energy” that inspired him and Adiga to fulfill their dreams of becoming a filmmaker and author, respectively.
“I thought a lot about that emotion when I was writing the script – how can I go back in time when we were just starting out?” he said.
He explained among the key figures helping him return to the excited-state-of-mind was his producing partner who urged him to remember the early stages of his career to nail the film’s playful, and darkly comic tone.
Bahrani also shared that adapting The White Tiger for film couldn’t have come at a better time career-wise, even if it hit the streaming platform more than a 13 years after the novel’s original publishing.
“Creatively, I made six feature films by then and I felt creatively prepared to tackle the screenplay,” he said. “It’s a difficult tone and I don’ think I could have accomplished it earlier in my career…I feel having other scripts, I was more ready than before.”
Though set in India, The White Tiger has garnered reactions worldwide and topped Netflix charts in 64 countries upon the first month of its premiere. Bahrani attributed the film’s global success and resonance with Academy members not only to the main character (Adarsh Gourav) and his unpredictable ways, but also to its universality.
“The movie doesn’t’ condescend to its audience, it doesn’t play into easy politics – it doesn’t match any0one’s agenda per se,” he said. “I think the movie avoids specific messages and I think the audience can appreciate that.”
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