Adarsh Gourav‘s performance in Ramin Bahrani’s The White Tiger has given him the instant global recognition he deserves. The film is currently trending at number on Netflix worldwide and Adarsh has earned himself a best actor nomination at the Film Independent Spirits Awards. Film Companion editor Anupama Chopra speaks to the young actor about life beyond The White Tiger and his other talents.
Anupama Chopra: Adarsh, your Instagram bio reads “Mostly an actor, sometimes a crow, currently the White Tiger”. When are you a crow and what does it mean?
Adarsh Gourav: (laughs) So I do animal impersonations. I copy a lot of animals, I like doing animal sounds. The crow is one of my favourite animals to impersonate. In fact, I remember my friend and I were sitting next to my window and I was talking to crows. And this female walked in and she was like “What is happening, what are you doing?” And I was like “Nothing!” It was embarrassing to be discovered.
I co-directed a play in 2017, with my drama school batch mate. It was called Ayyo Raju and it was about a grandfather and a dog who absolutely despise each other but have to spend two days inside a house. I played the dog, and Vidyut, whom I directed with, played the grandfather. I was hiding behind the white curtain which was the background of the play the whole time and I was barking as the dog. After the play got over people came behind, they wanted to congratulate me since I was the director. And they were like “Congratulations! Can we meet the dog?” I said ‘I’m the dog’ and they couldn’t believe it. So I had to bark and prove it to them.
AC: That’s amazing. Is this when you discovered this ability to be animals?
AG: The first time that I discovered that I could use my voice– well the first time was when I could replicate the sound of the police-waala seeti that they do at traffic signals. I could replicate that sound as a kid. Like it felt like I had a seeti in my mouth. And then when my voice cracked when I became a teenager, I couldn’t do it anymore. So I don’t know how, I think it started off with me trying to copy a dog and then I found other animals that I could do and then a bunch of animals…
AC: In addition to all these amazing talents, you’re also a really fine singer. You’ve been trained in Hindustani classical music for years. How does the music inform the actor in you?
AG: Well first of all music allows you to understand rhythm, it allows you to use your voice well. I think that’s what it has taught me. I think my ability to do animal sounds is somewhere an offshoot of my ability to sing. Music and dance and all these things allow you to understand the rhythm of everything that’s around you. ‘Taal’, as they call it in Hindustani classical music. Everything in nature has a rhythm and all people have their own rhythm, so I think it’s really helped me in my acting process.
AC: You said somewhere that someday you would like to do a singing-dancing role. Somehow I can’t imagine that because what you did as Balram is still so much in my head. What do you want to do? Did you mean big masala Bollywood?
AG: To be very honest, I was never majorly influenced by big Bollywood commercial films. I was always intrigued and in awe of gangster dramas and crime-related dramas and actors who portrayed such characters influenced me in a lot of ways. But I have a lot of admiration for people who can dance and sing and do the whole thing. It’ll be a big challenge for me to do it and I’d love to do it just to take it up. But I don’t think I’ll be very great at it initially. I’ll have to work really hard at it. I’m really in awe of people who can do it so naturally, all the big actors.
AC: Are you liking fame?
AG: I haven’t really experienced fame. I don’t know what fame is, not yet. But it’s nice to be anonymous also. I guess things are just simpler in some way, and you can still do what you want, be anywhere you want. I don’t know, I’ve never experienced fame so I don’t know what it really is.
AC: Lastly, tell me what happens now? Have the ambitions changed in any way?
AG: Not really. I always just wanted to work with filmmakers that inspire me and be part of stories that are new and have a different perspective, people who want to experiment and have their own voice. I’m just hoping that with this film some windows will open up, some doors that open up that I’ll get to audition with such filmmakers, work with such filmmakers hopefully and find my own voice. And it happens internationally as well as India. I’m trying to learn some Tamil right now from my father. I also want to learn some Malayalam, because I don’t want language to become a barrier for the kind of filmmakers I want to work with. And I’m just trying to fully equip myself with whatever it takes to work with the filmmakers in the country and in the world. That’s all my plan is, I have no other plan.
AC: Is there anything you can tell us about what comes next for you, in terms of a project?
AG: I’m just doing a short film with Varun Grover from tomorrow. I really admire him and look up to him and I’m shooting for a short film for three days with him. I don’t have anything else that I’ve signed. They’re some good work coming my way and I’m just taking my time, taking it easy.