‘The White Tiger’ director Ramin Bahrani listens to Bob Dylan to pump himself up

“The White Tiger” director and Columbia University professor takes our career questionnaire.

‘The White Tiger’ director Ramin Bahrani listens to Bob Dylan to pump himself up
[Illustration: Ben Kirchner]

Fast Company: What’s your best habit, and what’s your worst?


Ramin Bahrani: Relentless. Relentless.

What do you do when you’re creatively stuck?

Go for a walk, read, talk with friends.


Is there a businessperson you admire?

I am not a businessperson, but perhaps it is worth looking at Abbas I (1571–1629), the fifth Safavid Shah of Iran.

What’s the buzzword you never want to hear again?


All of them.

What’s the best mistake you ever made?

Making my first film without knowing anything.


How do you unplug?

Go for a hike upstate with my partner.

Is there a book you recommend to everyone?


The Death of Ivan Ilyich, by Tolstoy. A story of death that makes you want to be truly alive.

What’s the advice you’re glad you ignored?

“Trust me.”


What advice would you give your younger self?

Never forget: self-reliance.

Did you have a career fork in the road?


Going to live in Iran for three years instead of going to graduate school.

Bahrani’s Film Curriculum

Do you have a work uniform or wardrobe staple?

Black jeans, black T-shirt, sneakers.


Who is your style icon?

In cinema, it is hard to beat (Federico) Fellini.

Do you have a favorite object in your office?


Yellow Post-it notes, which I use for structuring my screenplays on the wall. Each note is a scene. I like that they are small, so you can only write the most important beats of each scene, and you can easily shuffle them around or add/remove scenes.

What’s always in your bag?

Pen, pencil, legal pad, book.


What is your biggest indulgence?

Dark chocolate with hazelnut or almonds.

How do you like to exercise?



What TV show are you mid-binge on?

The OA season 2. I love Zal Batmanglij’s work.


Do you have a favorite podcast?

The main character in Shittown (S-Town) was pretty incredible.

Do you have a mantra?

“Yes and . . .” until you have to say, “No, thank you.”

What is your go-to food for fast fuel?


What is the meal you still fantasize about?

I recently worked in Atlanta for three months and found a great Persian restaurant there called Delbar. I recommend kale salad, dill labneh, chenjeh beef kabob, and adas polo.

Do you have a “get pumped” song?

“Like a Rolling Stone,” by Bob Dylan.

Is there a meeting you never miss?

My writing every early morning.