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Adarsh ​​Gourav: Meet the Bollywood White Tiger

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aadarsh ​​gourav bgImage credits: Netflix

More than a decade after Aravind Adiga’s novel The white tiger won the Man Booker Prize in 2008, the person on his autograph page, Iranian-American director Ramin Bahrani, ended up directing his film adaptation. And Bahrani had only one instruction for Tess Joseph, the film’s casting director, while looking for actors: “Show me your best and truest actors”. The Netflix movie The white tiger released on January 22, with a cast including Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Rajkumar Rao and Adarsh ​​Gourav, and, according to an announcement by Chopra Jonas, became the # 1 film on the platform in 64 countries in the first four weeks, and has been seen by 27 million households. What he has also done is catapult the 26-year-old Gourav, a newcomer to the world of great cinema, into the nominating lists of some of the world’s most prestigious awards. He was nominated for Best International Actor-Film from the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Awards, is on the long list for Best Leading Actor category at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards, and is the first Indian to be nominated for Best Male Lead at the Film Independent Spirits Awards (the late Irrfan Khan was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Mira Nair’s Namesake in 2007). Gourav says it is surreal to find his name alongside Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hanks, Gary Oldman and the late Chadwick Boseman. But if you ask Joseph, he had shown his potential from his very first audition. “Adarsh’s very first audition was promising. He was brazen but naive; he felt that he “belonged” to the world. He listens, he invests in the instructions but also makes courageous choices when asked to do a wild take, ”she says. “For the voiceover for the film, he was one of the last actors we tested, and we ran into a lot of options. When I uploaded the tapes to Ramin, I left him a note saying “look at this one.” I loved it’.”

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Gourav started playing at the age of 13. Auditioning was mostly a weekend activity and eventually landed him the role of a young Rizwan Khan (the character of Shah Rukh Khan) in Karan Johar. My name is khan (2013). However, he claims that he never thought about being an actor in the following years, and that it was only by acting in a movie called Banana in Jamshedpur that Gourav was bitten by the actor bug. “When I played the character of Joyjeet Ganguly [in Banana], I had never experienced anything like it. It was cathartic for me to get to know another person so intimately – a person who only existed on pages. Bringing this to life was a unique experience. It was there that I started to appreciate the profession. After his family moved from Jamshedpur to Mumbai, Gourav attended drama school for a year, went to acting workshops, recorded voiceovers and character dubbing, performed in commercials, web series (Daze Youth Hostel and Leila) and films (Rukh and Mom). “I am very lucky to be doing this for a living. To be able to earn money by telling stories. ”

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the_white_tiger_00_47_03_08r-bgA picture of The white tiger, with Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Rajkumar Rao and Adarsh ​​Gourav
Image credits: Netflix

In The white tiger, Balram Halwai leaves his village, which has no prospects for young people, to join the crowd of bonded domestic workers in the homes of wealthy urban families. “Balram was born into a family of the poor. But at the same time, he’s naive and carefree enough not to know the reality of city life, and how people operate when they’re more exposed in the world, ”says Gourav. Halwai’s life is a study of fear, corruption, and exploitation, and he breaks free from the attachment he feels towards his employers when he realizes he is becoming a scapegoat. Gourav had three months to know him. First, he tried to get a job as a driver in a wealthy house in Mumbai or Delhi. “It turned out to be very difficult, because who would randomly keep me as the driver?” He then asked an acquaintance called Akshay Nayak to take him to Chalkari Basti, his village of Jharkhand. “I stayed at his home for almost two weeks, in order to better understand Balram’s life, how he saw the city and how he thought about everything else. Gourav then moved to Delhi. “I worked at a small food stall in Saket for a few weeks, where I would shop for my seth (employer), wash the dishes and keep the place clean.” But it was telling Halwai’s story in director Bahrani’s style that was like tasting blood for Adarsh. His unconventional ways of directing actors meant he never said “action” or “cut” to indicate the start and end of a shot. “Priyanka, Raj, Vijay Maurya and I love to improvise, and Ramin never told us to stick to the script; it was just a base. Of course, it was important to say certain lines. But once the scene was over, depending on the script, he wouldn’t end the scene there. He would see where it could go. We kept improvising until Ramin got in the frame and we were like ‘oh, the scene is over’, ”Gourav recalls. “It’s very inspiring to have worked with Ramin. I know it won’t be the same with all the filmmakers I work with, but I really feel blessed after working with him because of the freedom he gives actors. In one particular scene, Halwai is on the verge of tears as he feels betrayed by the employers he adored until then. His eyes overflow with tears, but he doesn’t let a drop escape. “When I’m trying to effectively play a different person, who isn’t Adarsh, it’s very important to understand the things I’m doing and understand the intention; but also to be able to live the life of this person ”, explains Gourav. “Each character has an impact on you. You lose something and you gain something from every person that you become. He adds that acting is a psycho-physical process that needs to be reversed once filming is finished. “When you walk a certain way for two to three months, you’ll find that your gait has changed when you’re no longer on sets. Then I have to make a conscious effort to walk like Adarsh, and not like Balram. You come back as close as possible to reality… By walking in the street, by talking to people, by doing the things you would do when you are not an actor. ”

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the white tiger_20191024_unit_06302r-bgImage credits: Netflix

The white tigerGourav’s success has given Gourav more confidence and he believes it will provide him with opportunities to audition for the right roles, read the right scripts and engage with the filmmakers he has always wanted to work with. Joseph thinks this is just the start of Gourav’s journey as an actor. As a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, she says, “The world has spoken and I echo it: Adarsh ​​has caught the attention of the world and some of the best. reviews, and [he] stands out alongside the best actors of 2020. ”The Film Independent Spirit Awards, for which Gourav was nominated in the Best Male Lead category, are considered the Oscars for films made with a budget of less than $ 20 million. The former winners have won the Oscars for Best Picture. For example, The artist (2011), Silver Linings Playbook (2012), 12 years of slavery (2013), Birdman (2014), Projector (2015), and Moonlight (2016). “I hardly want to believe it,” said Gourav, referring to the nominations. “But I hope these things give me the opportunity to work with the kind of directors that I want to work with. I think any award or recognition is just one way forward for a storyteller, be it an actor, producer, or writer.

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