'The White Tiger': The Award-Winning Book That Inspired The Netflix Movie

The White Tiger, streaming on Netflix, is the new movie starring Priyanka Chopra Jonas. Set in India, it tells the story of Balram Halwai (played by Adarsh Gourav), an ambitious young chauffeur who schemes his way from poverty to success. Chopra Jonas, meanwhile stars as Pinky, the wife of the wealthy Ashok (Rajkummar Rao), whom Balram drives for.

If that plot sounds familiar to readers, it is because it is based on the novel of the same name, written by Aravind Adiga and released in 2008. The White Tiger is the second Adiga book to be adapted by the streamer, with his cricketing drama Selection Day getting the miniseries treatment a few years ago.

This novel, which won the illustrious British literary award the Booker Prize, is written from the point of view of Balram, who recounts his life in a letter, which he is writing as an older man to Wen Jiabao, the then-Chinese Premier.

The synopsis of this novel gives viewers a glimpse at what to expect from the book: "Balram Halwai is a complicated man. Servant. Philosopher. Entrepreneur. Murderer. Over the course of seven nights, by the scattered light of a preposterous chandelier, Balram tells us the terrible and transfixing story of how he came to be a success in life—having nothing but his own wits to help him along.

the white tiger netflix
Adarsh Gourav and Priyanka Chopra Jonas in 'The White Tiger,' based on the 2008 novel of the same name. Netflix

"Born in the dark heart of India, Balram gets a break when he is hired as a driver for his village's wealthiest man, two house Pomeranians (Puddles and Cuddles), and the rich man's (very unlucky) son. From behind the wheel of their Honda City car, Balram's new world is a revelation."

The director of the movie version of The White Tiger Ramin Bahrani has a link with the source material closer than most director have to the books they choose to adapt. The 2008 novel is actually dedicated Bahrani, who studied with Adiga as a student in New York. Bahrani's previous films, meanwhile, are often dedicated to Adiga.

In fact, Adiga sent Rahmin drafts of the novel as he was writing it in the mid-'00s. The director said of this to the Financial Times:"I have drafts of his novel going back to 2005 on the machine I'm talking to you on...I thought, my God. If this doesn't get published, we should both just quit."

The script for the Netflix movie was written by Adiga himself, who was also the screenwriter of Selection Day. Speaking to Scroll.in while the movie was in pre-production in April 2018, Bahrani said of the screenplay: "What I can say is that since the book is so good, my rule will be to be close to what Aravind has written and only change things that need to be changed to fit into a screenplay format. You do have to make cuts in an adaptation, and everything won't translate for the screen, but I am staying close to the book."

The movie has been praised by many critics for its scathing indictment of the wealthy and the ways that they oppress those less fortunate than them. However, Bahrani told the Financial Times that this was only part of the adapting process. He said: "The rage was easy to tap in to. But I also wanted to capture how funny Aravind's book is. The sarcasm and satire and how playful it can be."

The White Tiger is streaming now on Netflix.