Apple TV+: “Shantaram”, an epic series for a cult novel

Apple TV+: “Shantaram”, an epic cult novel series


The novel, a modern epic with international success, has arrived as a series on Apple TV+. At the helm of the project, Charlie Hunnam who, in addition to playing the lead role, also acted as producer. And in the second lead role, Antonia Desplat who delivers an impressive portrait of a complex woman. 

Upon publication, Shantaramended up on the list of best sellers. The novel, loosely based on the life of its author Gregory David Roberts, recounts the adventures of Lin Ford (Charlie Hunnam). Accused of murder and bank robbery in Australia, imprisoned and severely mistreated by the police, this former heroin addict manages to escape and reach India in the 1980s. In Bombay, he meets Prabhu (Shubham Saraf) who becomes his friend. Then Didier (Vincent Perez), a Frenchman involved in all the shady affairs of the city and Karla (Antonia Desplat), an expatriate – also involved in not very clear things – with whom he falls in love. Shantaram is also a portrait of India, of last century Bombay, of its slums and is a brilliant foray into the spirituality of the country and the human soul.

Shantaramalmost never saw the light of day. Published in 2003, the novel immediately interested Warner studios, which acquired the rights to it and hired Johnny Depp, a great fan of the novel. Peter Weir was cast as director. Then Mira Nair replaced Weir and Joel Edgerton was approached by Johnny Depp to take his place in 2013. Warner's rights having expired since 2015, it was finally Paramount who acquired them in 2018 to make the television series, particularly engaging, of 12 episodes and whose broadcast begins on October 14.

The French Antonia Desplat, interpreter of Karla, was hired three years ago, which gave her time to develop her character in a precise way. “I was blown away by Karla's power as soon as I read the script. As a foreigner, to have such a developed character interested me. It's very rare that I say to myself: 'It's mine' when reading a script. I immediately dove into the novel. Karla is an enigma, I had so much leeway. She is mysterious, vulnerable, intimidating, manipulative and yet loving and approachable. She is six or seven different people at the same time,” the actress told QMI Agency.

“I practice the Stanislavski technique, that is to say that I approach all my roles by dissecting the character, without ever staying 'in character' outside of filming. […] My preparation is therefore exhaustive and, with my coach, I create, through music, emotional memories for my character from his childhood to his death, which allows me to access these emotions when I 'need it.”

“It's a long process, but I love it, because it allows me to know a character and therefore to know myself as a different person. The character becomes a second part of me and it is very pleasant. And then I can let go and have fun. And I have to have things in common with my character. I believe that I explore another side of my personality with each character.”

Shot in Thailand instead of India due to the pandemic, the series only covers a part of the novel which has a sequel, also translated into French under the title “L'ombre de la montagne”. Will we have the chance to see it on the small screen? Antonia Desplat's response rocketed. “You have to ask Apple. You are the ones who are going to give us a second season.”

Shantaram premieres on Apple TV+ on October 14.