Smuggler Films buys rights to 'The White Tiger'

India-themed story is the first project for John Hart's firm

LOS ANGELES--John Hart's newly formed Smuggler Films has signed on its first project, acquiring rights to the India-themed Man Booker Prize winner "The White Tiger."

Aravind Adiga wrote the novel, which like Oscar heavyweight "Slumdog Millionaire" centers on class tensions in contemporary India.

The book, which took Britain's top literary prize last year, tells the story of Balram Halwai, a rough-around-the-edges, politically incorrect rickshaw driver who struggles to escape his lower caste and poor upbringing by taking a driving job for a wealthy boss -- and winds up committing a murder.

Critics have noted that the book purposefully paints an unglamorous portrait of a changing India.

Producers said this project offers a decidedly darker message than Danny Boyle's best picture winner. "While 'Slumdog' paints a romantic portrait of the rising India, in which anyone can be a millionaire, 'The White Tiger' suggests that to succeed, murder may be the only option," the producers said.

"White Tiger" will be produced in association with Jolyon Symonds' and Nicholas Greene's Ascension Entertainment.

Hart and partners Patrick Milling Smith and Brian Carmody, video and commercial producers, recently announced the formation of Smuggler Films, which will produce a range of film, television, theatrical and digital content.

Hart is an indie producer who, after his Hart-Sharp banner was dissolved several years ago, formed Evamere Entertainment. He most recently served as a producer on "Revolutionary Road."

Ascension is a British-based banner that looks to specialize in prestige projects; it's developing "Travels With My Aunt," based on the Graham Greene novel.