Writer and director Ramin Bahrani returns to the Independent Spirit Awards with “The White Tiger,.” This Netflix film just earned a Best Actor nomination for Adarsh Gourav. The multi-hyphenate Bahrani also adapted Aravind Adiga‘s Booker Prize-winning novel of the same name.
“The White Tiger” tells the story of Balram Halwai (Gourav), a young boy from a low Indian caste whose wit and intellect gives promise to a future of upward mobility. After his father’s death he’s forced to remain in his village and take a job in the tea house just to help ends meet for his family. But, determined to escape the trappings of life at the bottom of Indian society, Balram, called a “once in a lifetime white tiger” by a teacher, sets off to Delhi with a plan to be a driver for a wealthy man’s son. When life in the big city among the rich presents Balram with the opportunity to become an entrepreneur himself, the walls of morality and familial duty quake around him.
“The White Tiger” is rated 94% fresh by the top critics at Rotten Tomatoes.While Gourav has garnered much of the film’s praise, critics have also called attention to the direction, cinematography and writing. In his review, Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune) calls the film a “vital, fully realized work” comparable to 2008’s “Goodbye Solo.” He goes on to write that “the cast brings an edge and a drive to the telling, while cinematographer Paolo Carnera captures both the real-life grit and the dreamy, aspirational glamour of Balram’s unsentimental education.” And Stephanie Zacharek (TIME) calls the film a “compelling and extremely well crafted crime drama” that is a “complex whirl of a story” written by Bahrani.
Bahrani’s last feature film, “99 Homes,” earned Spirit, SAG, Critics Choice and Golden Globe nominations for Michael Shannon. He erupted onto the scene 15 years ago with his debut film “Man Push Cart.” It was nominated for Best First Feature, Best Actor (Ahmad Razvi), and Best Cinematography at the Spirit Awards. The following year he won the group’s Someone to Watch Award and was nominated for Best Director for his second feature, “Chop Shop.” The next year, his “Goodbye Solo” leading man Souleymane Sy Savane was nominated for Best Actor at the Spirits.