When BAFTA announced their 2021 nominations in March, Adarsh Gourav responded succinctly on Instagram: “Holy shit, it’s really happening!” For his nuanced, riveting work in The White Tiger, Gourav was named by BAFTA as one of its Best Actor selections, confirming that this is, indeed, a breakout year for the Mumbai-based performer. In fact, The White Tiger, Ramin Bahrani’s adaptation of Aravind Adiga’s bestselling novel, was not only an Oscar-nominated critical hit, but had mass appeal too; it was streamed by 27 million viewers in its first month on Netflix. Gourav even landed a Best Male Lead nomination at the Independent Spirit Awards. (There was an apt Instagram post for that, too: “A dream within a dream?”)
Then again, Gourav actually found fame in his teens. At 13, the Indian actor moved from Jamshedpur to Bombay and, at 16, was cast in 2010’s My Name Is Khan, a Bollywood smash that broke numerous box-office records. In the last year, though, it’s probably The White Tiger that caught your attention. Gourav imbues the character of Balram, a Delhi chauffeur who schemes his way to the top, with anger, humour and pathos; although Balram is often a complex character-within-a-complex-character, he makes it look easy.
By the end, you realise that Gourav is destined to be a star – unless you already knew that from his supporting roles in Amazon Prime’s Hostel Daze or the sci-fi series Leila. Moreover, after The White Tiger, directors around the globe are surely desperate to work with Gourav – whatever he shoots next is another reason to be excited about a post-pandemic world.
Text Nick Chen