Gregory David Roberts’ bestselling novel Shantaram about an Australian fugitive making a new life for himself in the slums of Mumbai has now finally been acquired as a 10-part series by Apple Inc. The popular Charlie Hunnam plays the title character, who has an epic cultural adventure in Mumbai while hiding from the law.
The novel based on the author’s own life, was first offered to Mira Nair almost 20 years ago as a feature film with Johnny Depp as a producer. Joel Edgerton was to play the lead, while Amitabh Bachchan was to play an important character
However Mira opted out and the directorial onus fell on Garth Davis who later went on to direct the Oscar winning Lion. Garth opted out of Shantaram. And now it has gone to Apple. Technically Mr Bachchan still remains attached to the project. Will he agree to shoot, especially when Apple apparently doesn’t plan to bring the shooting to Mumbai (the city where the original story is located).
Apparently one of the reasons why Mira Nair opted out of the project was because she wanted to shoot the film on authentic locations in the chawls of Mumbai whereas the producers felt that shooting in Mumbai slums was no longer a global box office fetish after Slumdog Millionaire.
Back in 2007 Mira in an interview with me had mourned her departure from the project mainly because she lost the chance to work with Mr Bachchan. “Alas, we have been stalled temporarily due to the crippling nature of the writers' strike in Hollywood. Johnny Depp assures me that this is just a pause, and that we'll start again once the strike is resolved. I've spent a year of creative endeavour in realizing Shantaram, so I look forward to the time when it will all come together,"
The cast, which initially boasted of Amitabh Bachchan and Johnny Depp, also featured Irrfan Khan and Konkona Sen Sharma among a host of others. Back then Mira had sighed, “I can close my eyes and see Mr Bachchan and Johnny Depp together.” Now that Shantaram has changed hands it’s time to open our eyes to a new cast in a new project in all-new (digital) format.
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