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How faithful is Netflix's The White Tiger to Aravind Adiga's novel?

The film's director is a close friend of author Aravind Adiga.

Published: Friday, 22nd January 2021 at 8:00 am

Aravind Adiga's novel The White Tiger was something of a sensation in the literary world when it was published in 2008, becoming both a New York Times bestseller and a Man Booker Prize winner, and so it was always only a matter of time before the story made its way to the screen. 


Now, 12 years later, the book has been adapted into a film by Netflix – and fans of the novel will no doubt be wondering just how close the new movie sticks to the original text.

Well, the good news is that the adaptation was placed in very safe hands: acclaimed writer/director Ramin Bahrani, who took on the project, is in fact very close friends with Adiga.

"Aravind Adiga, the author, is a very close friend of mine since we were in college," he told "And I had been reading rough drafts of the book for almost four years before it was published."

Read on for everything you need to know about differences in the film to the novel.

How faithful is The White Tiger to Aravind Adiga's novel?

According to Bahrani, the hardest parts of adapting the book were deciding which details to remove, and attempting to accurately convey the tone of the novel.

"The hardest part was cutting things that I liked because I like everything in Aravind's brilliant novel," he explained. "That was very tough. You're trying to capture a tone, that was a constant thought in my head - what is the tone of the film?

"Because the novel was very fun: it's very fast, it's quirky, it's funny, it's satirical but then in the middle of the film, right dead set in the centre of the book and in the film, something happens and from there moving forward it shifts to something a little bit darker and weirder.

"It still has the humour but it's darker and we constantly had our eye on that while writing the script and making the film."

Well, if comments from Adiga himself are anything to go by, Bahrani needn't worry about having failed to capture that tone, with the author having spoken in glowing terms about how happy he is with the finished film, saying that it perfectly portrays the spirit and world of his words.

"Witty, provocative, and moving, the film he has made not only brings my book to life, but transcends it," he explained, adding that he hopes "everyone has a chance to view The White Tiger."

As for changes to the narrative itself, there is one fairly major change to the structure: the film begins with a cold open in which we see central characters Balram, Ashok, and Pinky involved in a car crash, an event that doesn't actually occur until the middle of the story.

Bahrani explained that the idea to open with this scene came to him while writing the second draft, and revealed that he also withheld some information that is given away right at the beginning of the novel until later in the film.

"That [the cold open] happened in the second draft," he explained. "The first draft was even closer to the novel, where the character announces his definitive action – which I don't want to give away as a spoiler – but the main thing he does, his tough decision, he announces in the novel at the beginning of the book.

"So by the second draft that changed and I started with that cold open, which is the middle of the film, and don't reveal what Balram does until he actually does it."


The White Tiger cast features established stars Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Rajkummar Rao alongside newcomer Adarsh Gourav, who takes on the main role of Balram.

The White Tiger is streaming now on Netflix. Looking for something else to watch? Check out our guide to the best series on Netflix and best movies on Netflix, or visit our TV Guide.

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