Priyanka Chopra Jonas on significance of new Netflix film The White Tiger: “We don’t tell enough South Asian stories in global entertainment”
"We're one-fifth of the population, but do you see one-fifth of the world's movies being South Asian? We don't."
Aravind Adiga's novel The White Tiger became an international sensation when it was published in 2008 – winning the Man Booker Prize and earning a spot on The New York Times Bestsellers list – and now it's been adapted into a brand new film for Netflix.
The cast of the movie, which follows the rise of Balram Halwai (Adarsh Gourav) from poor villager to successful entrepreneur in modern India, includes relative newcomers alongside more established stars, and one of the biggest names to be involved is Priyanka Chopra Jonas, who serves as both an executive producer and a cast member.
And Chopra Jonas says that the role fits neatly into her long-held ambition of bringing a greater number of South Asian stories to a global audience.
"I really want to be at the helm of telling South Asian stories," she told RadioTimes.com. "Because we don't tell enough of them in global entertainment.
"I mean just the maths doesn't make sense – we're one-fifth of the population, but do you see one-fifth of the world's movies being South Asian? We don't."
The star's efforts in this regard have been applauded by The White Tiger's director, Ramin Bahrani, who also hopes that the film can go some way to inspiring more diverse stories at a global level.
"I think Priyanka, who was an incredible partner and an amazing actress in the film, is on a mission as a producer, she's doing that in India and in Hollywood and internationally," he explained.
"I think Netflix has a real vision to do that also, to tell diverse stories. And I hope more people around the world will get a chance to tell their story, people who don't look a certain way or have the right name that equals Hollywood or international success, I hope that can be upended. There are a lot more people out there that have things to say and great stories to tell."
While the film might be an Indian story with an Indian setting, both Chopra Jonas and Bahrani were keen to point out that the themes of the movie are universal – and have become especially relevant in the last year.
"I do think the fact that the film is based in India is sort of a metaphor for the class divide that exists around the world," Chopra Jonas explained. "The story is of the haves and the have nots, the ones who do and the ones who don't, and the socio-economic divide within the world is extremely large right now – it's the largest we've ever seen in the history of mankind.
"So the story even though it was based in India is still so relevant to the rest of the world because I think we have to be really conscientiousness about the fact there's a really large population of the world which is living without the ability to have a choice in their future. "
And Bahrani added, "They've been themes that I've been tackling in all my films for the past 15 years, making movies about immigrants, working-class, underclass people who are struggling in tough economic situations or social settings.
"And I think in a very tragic way the film might even be more relevant now than before the age of COVID as the fault lines of wealth and inequality are starting to erupt in very frightening ways around us."
The film's lead actor, Adarsh Gourav, also believes the film is universal for another reason – in that it explores the extremely complex relationships that we all have with each other.
Speaking about his character Balram's relationship with his masters in the film, he said, "I think every human being has a very complex relationship, all of us have complex relationships with every other person that's part of our life, it's never black or white – it's always grey.
"Balram recognised that he was born in the darkness and Ashok (Rajkummar Rao) was someone who was born in the light. He was not as privileged as him and he always aspired to be like Ashok, and when that chase didn't bring in the kind of result that he wanted it to bring I think that pushed him towards a dark corner."