The White Tiger, the film adaptation of the Booker prize-winning book by Aravind Adiga, marks a new stage in the convergence of the world’s two most powerful film industries, in the US and India. Like Bong Joon-ho’s multiple award winner Parasite, The White Tiger is a film about the upper class, and their hired help turning against them; it is directed by Iranian-American film-maker Ramin Bahrani (99 Homes) and among its producers are A Wrinkle in Time’s Ava DuVernay, and Indian actor Priyanka Chopra Jonas (who also plays a major role in the film). The film was snapped up by Netflix – and it is no overestimation to say that streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have played a key role in enabling this surge of interest in south Asian stories.
Chopra Jonas has been at the forefront of this development, having made her name in Indian cinema with hits such as Don and Fashion before crossing over into Hollywood with a voice role in Planes, and a part in the TV series Quantico in the mid-2010s. “It was hard for me when I came to America to be taken seriously and find the kind of roles that I wanted to do,” says Chopra Jonas. “It took me a lot of digging my feet in, and finding amazing partners who had faith in me, who gave me the opportunities. It shouldn’t be that hard for south Asian talent, whether writers, directors, actors, to be a part of global entertainment, especially right now, when streamers give us the ability to tell any kind of story. I want to be a producer at the helm of that and tell as many south Asian stories, or stories from different parts of the world or female stories, as I can.
“I’m one of the few people who’ve come from the entertainment business in India, who’s held my ground and said that Indians are one fifth of the global population, and our portrayal in English language global content should be one fifth at least. We’re not anywhere close.”
Chopra Jonas also says it was a longstanding dream to work with DuVernay: “Ava is someone I’ve really admired. You meet a lot of people and have these conversations in rooms, especially at post-awards parties, and say we should work together – and that goes away the next day. Ava came on board because she has faith in the movie and is an ardent admirer of Ramin’s work. I was very excited to see my name attached to hers.” Continue reading.