Adarsh Gourav has burst upon the film scene with his burning bright role as Balram in The White Tiger now airing on Netflix. His co-stars are none other than Priyanka Chopra and Rajkummar Rao, but it is this 26-year-old newbie who is the undisputed lead actor of the film. He studied in Jamshedpur and Mumbai, but his roots are strongly Telugu. His father hails from Sangam Village near Srikakulam, and his mother from Vijayanagaram.
“I speak Telugu at home. My parents were insistent that I learn the language, and that is helping me today as an actor as I can speak several languages and can work in many industries,” says Adarsh. The family has a banking background, but Adarsh’s interests were different from the beginning.
He gravitated towards singing early in life, and was a member of two bands. In fact, it was while he was singing at Mumbai’s Kala Ghoda festival that he chanced to be spotted, and subsequently, he was called for an audition. “Someone from casting director Tess Joseph’s team called me for an audition. I just wanted to give a good audition. This was a big film and I felt me getting the part was out of the question,” says Adarsh. “I had read Aravind Adiga’s book [on which the film is based] as a teenager and I asked them if I should read it again before auditioning, but they said just do the audition,” he adds.
Not only was the outcome of the audition a surprise, the accolades that have come his way for his part in the Ramin Bahrani film were totally unexpected. “It feels unreal and like a dream. It is more than I expected. I am trying to soak it all in and enjoy as much as I can,” says the actor.
Talking of his experience while filming, Adarsh says, “I am fortunate. Priyanka Chopra and Rajkummar Rao are legendary actors and wonderful humans. They are so humble and grounded after putting in so many years of work. The amount of dedication they have to their craft is inspiring.”
Acting is apparently second nature to Adarsh. “I loved telling stories as a kid. I would lie about everything, be it my test marks or not doing my homework,” he reminisces. “I derived a lot of pleasure from that. I enjoyed the stories that I would create, but it [being an actor] was never part of the plan. And now I get paid for telling stories,” chuckles the 26-year-old.
Even while he was filming The White Tiger, he continued to ‘act’ and play pranks on unsuspecting people. “I was living in a hotel close to Saket where I had put up my thela (stall) for my role as Balram in The White Tiger,” says Adarsh. “I would wake up in the morning and leave as myself, and come back as Balram. The hotel staff would stop me, asking, “Kahaan jaana hai?” [where do you want to go?] I would show them my room card but they would follow me to my room. I once let them change the bed linen and the guy doing so was scared, wondering what so many pictures of actors like Priyanka Chopra and Rajkummar Rao were doing in my room. Maybe he felt I was some sort of a crazy contract killer,” he laughs. “I guess they finally found out that I was an actor. It was like the Kamal Haasan act in Chachi 420,” he says with an impish smile.
Meanwhile, The White Tiger has been attracting some mixed reviews, with more international reviewers rooting for the film than Indian ones, making it seem like an Indian movie made for the Western audience. “I think It is an Indian film for everybody. People will disagree. They are entitled to their option and perspective. That is the beauty of it. We need dissent and disagreement,” Adarsh comments.
The actor now aims to work in some good films and projects. He has already begun shooting for a short directed by Varun Grover. “I have loved his writing and work. I want to work with all the directors who have inspired me. I want to do Tamil and Malayalam films apart from Hindi and want to audition in Hollywood as well,” he says.
What about his passion for music? “I learnt to play the guitar during the lockdown after failing five times. I can finally play an instrument while I sing,” says Adarsh happily.