At 26, Adarsh Gourav of The White Tiger is aware of what he desires—to inform tales and search for characters which eat him ultimately

Nonika Singh

A breakout star, a breakout performance with his very first leading role in The White Tiger, followed by no less than a BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) nomination; a lesser mortal would have been either flying high or bogged down by expectations. But not Adarsh Gourav, unanimously hailed as, “a real find,” he finds such adulatory terms as breakout kind of frivolous. In Chandigarh for an ad shoot, as we catch up with him at the airport via a zoom conference, what emerges is a confident sorted young man with a head firmly on his shoulders.

Lure of Chandigarh

What brought him to Chandigarh was an ad shoot where he rubbed shoulders with cricketer Harbhajan Singh. While City Beautiful gets full marks from him, “It is such a lovely peaceful city I would love to come back and try the food out here.” In Bhajji he found a “fantastic fun person who keeps the atmosphere light on the sets.”

The surreal feeling that suffused him when he won the BAFTA nomination has not yet sunk in. And no, he isn’t keeping his fingers crossed. To even imagine that he can walk away with the award where legendary men like Anthony Hopkins, Chadwick Boseman and Riz Ahmed are competing is a thought he would not entertain even in his dreams. But with a dream-cum-true part on his platter, he has no reasons to be dwelling in a dream world in the first place.

The stupendous success of The White Tiger is something he views as a very positive development, inspiring and encouraging but will not determine his future choices. From the very start he has been very clear about the kind of cinema he wants to be associated with. “I am here to tell stories, look for characters that connect with me and consume me in some way.”

You bet, Balram lives in him even today as he says, “Every part that you play takes something from you and leaves something behind. It’s like if you walk with your neck tilted on one side for two months at a stretch, it won’t be easy to get back to the normal position. So, yes there are remnants of Balram in me.”

Much has been written on Balram Halwai and like many others he doesn’t see him as a hero or a villain, only a flawed character with dreams and aspirations. Ideally, he would love to play flawed characters precisely because, “We are all flawed, were it not so we would be gods.” One flaw that Adarsh would like to undo is his sleeping habit. On a serious note, he is a man of many talents, can do sound impersonation of animals, “hasn’t tried to copy the sound of white tiger though” and trained in classical music.

A playback singer or an actor is a question he often asks himself and would love to sing for himself and others in films. But acting was something that happened accidentally. Prior to The White Tiger, he has been seen in My Name Is Khan and Rukh. The key difference in working in an international project (The White Tiger), he sums up thus, “The beauty of working with Ramin Bahrani has been that he is a director who loves to prepare and yet allows his actors the freedom to be. That is a rare combination for a director and very liberating for an actor as it becomes a collaborative effort and not a one-way street.’’

Interestingly, though there were no referral points while playing Balram as ‘everything was there in the script’, Adarsh did interpret his character from his own vantage point. ‘‘There are so many Balrams around us.” Of course, to prep for the role he spent time in a village, worked covertly ‘like a spy in Delhi streets’ and almost became invisible. Would he have the same luxury today? He nods in affirmative, “For one I am not that widely known and secondly one can always disguise oneself and blend in well.”

He may not have studied method acting, the Stanislavski School or Stella Adeler’s techniques, yet he does follow his own methods.

However, he refuses to buy the assertion that he overshadowed the method actor and one of the finest in Bollywood Rajkummar Rao. “Raj bhai has always been an inspiration for the kind of choices he makes and during the shooting I realised what a warm wonderful human being he is. Everyone is talking about me for I play the central protagonist.”

Post The White Tiger, he wouldn’t say whether Bollywod has opened its doors wide open, but yes he is reading a lot of scripts and giving auditions too. Apart from a short film there is only one project (a Hindi film) for which he has signed on the dotted line. But then this Jamshedpur boy is not in a hurry. Rather, even at 26, he clearly knows where he is headed.

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