While many books cry out to become films, fewer books have characters deep enough, plots thick enough, and worlds visual enough to translate well into a television series. Married well, the resulting adaptations are a gift to both readers and viewers, making binge-watchers out of page-turners like Big Little Lies, Sharp Objects, The Queen’s Gambit, and most ambitious of all, the book turned TV series Game of Thrones.
Author Gregory David Roberts’s epic 936-page novel Shantaram is among the latest novels to evolve from page to screen becoming an Apple TV+ drama series of the same title starring Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy, Pacific Rim). Shantaram follows the adventures of Lin Ford, an Australian who escapes a maximum security prison and flees to Bombay in the 1980s where he becomes a fake doctor, a forger, and smuggler for the Bombay mafia, and then a gun-running fighter in Afghanistan until he is recaptured.
Re-named Shantaram which means “man of peace,” Lin is as heroic as he is a criminal, more lover than a fighter. He loves the poor but resilient people of Bombay, especially his tour guide turned best friend Prabakar. When a fire breaks out in the slums, Lin uses his basic medical knowledge to treat the injured, turning to crime lord Khader (Alexander Siddig) for black market supplies. He also falls madly in love with a beautiful woman Karla (Antonia Desplat) who leads him deeper into the underworld even as he dreams of freedom.
When Is The Release Date of Shantaram?
Shantaram will make its global debut with the first three episodes of its 12-episode first season airing on Friday, October 14, 2022, followed by one new episode weekly every Friday through December 16, 2022.
Where Can You Watch Shantaram?
Shantaram airs exclusively on Apple TV+ which is available through subscription via the Apple TV app and tv.apple.com. A subscription costs $4.99 per month and offers a seven-day free trial.
It was a long road leading to Apple TV+. After the book became a global sensation in 2003, Shantaram was initially planned as a film with Johnny Depp in the lead role. After the project stalled, Anonymous Content and Paramount Television snatched the rights to the novel re-envisioning it as a television series which Apple then picked up, as per Collider.
In this action-packed trailer, the forever-on-the-run Lin Ford is imprisoned and tortured for robbery in Australia before he escapes prison and travels to India on a fake passport. “I’m in serious trouble. I was a wanted man on the run with a price on my head, but for now, I was free.”
Lin ends up in Bombay where he meets the people who will alter the course of his fugitive life: his lovable tour guide and true friend Prabakar, his devilish “guardian angel” Karla who saves Lin from a rampaging cab and becomes his first connection to Bombay’s seedy but lucrative underground economy, and the warlord Khader Khan who becomes Lin’s powerful ally. Soon Lin’s life becomes even more dangerous than his previous one in Australia. “For a man who doesn’t want trouble, you keep interesting company,” Karla tells Lin. But if Lin cannot seem to avoid trouble, it is because he is chasing after something bigger — not just freedom but redemption. “I guess I need to be running towards something. Not away from it,” Lin says.
Who Is In The Cast of Shantaram?
Shantaram’s hero Lin or Linbaba is a larger-than-life character and an actor’s dream. No wonder Depp had wanted to play him. Consider how Lin describes himself in the book: “When I escaped from that prison, over the front wall between two gun-towers, I became my country’s most wanted man. Luck ran with me and flew with me across the world to India, where I joined the Bombay mafia. I worked as a gunrunner, a smuggler, and a counterfeiter. I was chained on three continents, beaten, stabbed, and starved. I went to war. I ran into the enemy guns. And I survived, while other men around me died.”
A meaty role for Hunnam and a challenging one, too. In a November 2020 interview with Collider, Hunnam, admitted that it had been difficult to shift in and out of the mindset of Lin as production was interrupted:
“Yeah, it is. But it’s also so frequent within this business that one has to learn to deal with it. It’s the worst to have to, for instance, go back and do reshoots. I think any actor will say that’s just the worst experience because you’ve said goodbye and completely shaken that thing out of your system, and then you have to go and find it again, and there’s always the question of, will you be able to find it again.”
In addition to Hunnam, Shantaram features a multinational cast to play the locals, foreigners, and Indians who converge in 1980s Bombay to traffic in drugs, currencies, passports, gold, sex, and influence. Antonia Desplat (The French Dispatch) plays Karla Saaranen, the most beautiful woman Lin has ever seen and one of the most powerful and influential people in Bombay. Alexander Siddig (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) plays Khader Khan, the revered kingpin of Bombay’s underworld who acts as a surrogate father to Lin. Shubham Saraf (A Suitable Boy) plays the lovable Prabakar. Also in the cast are Elektra Kilbey, Fayssal Bazzi, Luke Pasqualino, Alyy Khan, Sujaya Dasgupta, Vincent Perez, David Field, Gabrielle Scharnitzky, Elham Ehsas, Rachel Kamath, Matthew Joseph, and Shiv Palekar.
The series is co-created, written and executive produced by Steve Lightfoot, who also serves as showrunner. Bharat Nalluri directs and executive produces. Andrea Barron, Nicole Clemens, Steve Golin, and Justin Kurzel also executive produce along with Eric Warren Singer, who co-created the series. Shantaram is produced for Apple by Paramount Television Studios and Anonymous Content’s AC Studios.
What is Shantaram About?
The official synopsis reads:
Shantaram follows a fugitive named Lin Ford (Hunnam) looking to get lost in vibrant and chaotic 1980s Bombay. Alone in an unfamiliar city, Lin struggles to avoid the trouble he’s running from in this new place. After falling for an enigmatic and intriguing woman named Karla, Lin must choose between freedom or love and the complications that come with it.
Is Shantaram A True Story?
Shantaram author Gregory David Roberts was serving a 19-year sentence for robbery in Australia when he escaped from prison and fled to India, where he was recaptured after a decade of hiding. When asked if Shantaram and the subsequent novel The Mountain Shadow are true, Roberts said,
“Some experiences from my life are described pretty much as they happened, and others are created narratives, informed by my experience. I wanted to write two or three novels on some bare elements from my life, allowing me to explore the themes that interested me while keeping the narrative immediate by anchoring it to some of my real experiences.”