Netflix's upcoming The White Tiger, an adaptation of Aravind Adiga's 2008 Man Booker Prize-winning novel, is directed by acclaimed Hollywood director Ramin Bahrani and stars Adarsh Gourav, Rajkummar Rao and Priyanka Chopra Jonas. The celebrated novel explores class war, freedom, and the hyper-globalized world that was supposed to solve historic inequities of caste and class, all of which is brought under the hammer. In an interview with Film Companion Editor Anupama Chopra (shot before the pandemic), Rajkummar Rao and Priyanka Chopra Jonas discussed Ramin's unique directing style and why it felt liberating to them.
Anupama: Priyanka, you said that Ramin has a very specific approach. Can you talk about how he directs?
Rajkummar: I think it's a brilliant approach. I think he loves his actors, he trusts them a lot. He knows exactly what he wants out of a scene and he gives us a lot of freedom. He wants us to explore, and he uses this word a lot: he wants us to 'search'. He would never show you an act, like "I want it this way", he would ask you to search for whatever he's looking for in that scene. I think that's a beautiful process. And he doesn't say "action". He would be like, "Whenever you're ready", which I think is so liberating.
Anupama: But is that ever disorienting?
Priyanka: No, it was actually a big reason I signed the film. If I may go back a little bit, when the script first came to me from my agent, I was like, "Oh my god, this is something I really want to be a part of", even though I remember my character doesn't have a large role in the book. So, I went in to meet him for the first time, and we met in Mumbai, I happened to be in town, he happened to be in town and he came home and we started talking. And we didn't really talk much about the movie. We talked about filmmaking and we came up with a bunch of ideas, and I just saw this thinking man who had the ability to give me an immersive experience. And I hadn't had that for a long time. I was really craving it, so my greed was just to work under his tutelage, to see how I'd be surprised and challenged, and he did just that. The fact that the lines that we have and the dialogues that you have on your side are just like a direction of where to go, it's like a skeleton. The flesh and the bones you come up with, so you can say whatever you feel in the moment. It's very actor dependent, so it's almost like it makes you better. It makes you want to be better not just for what you're doing right now but generally, in a creative space. And I really feel like that's one thing I'm taking away from this movie.