Ever since Gregory David Roberts's semi-autobiographical epic Shantaram became a global sensation in 2003, Hollywood has shown keen interest in an adaptation.
Russell Crowe was among the first to attach his name to the project, followed by Johnny Depp, who signed up to play the main character in the film version of the story, which is about an Australian convict who escapes to India and starts a new life.
Roberts himself was first drafted to write the script, with Warner Bros having bought the film rights for a reported $2 million as far back as 2004. Australian filmmaker Peter Weir (Dead Poets Society, The Truman Show) was initially announced to direct the film, but he quit the following year citing creative differences with producers.
Oscar-nominated director Mira Nair (The Namesake, Monsoon Wedding) then joined the project in 2007, with veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan set to star opposite Depp. But production on the film never began and it was eventually shelved in 2009.
Hopes for an adaptation were revived in 2013 when Warner Bros said it had negotiated to retain the rights to the adaptation until 2015. Australian actor Joel Edgarton was then announced as the lead with Depp staying on as producer. But talks eventually petered out with the film project again dying a slow death.
Roberts released a sequel, The Mountain Shadow, also a bestseller, in 2015.
Apple TV+ to the rescue
In 2018, Apple announced it had won a highly competitive bid to turn Shantaram as well as its sequel The Mountain Shadow into a series.
The news was met with excitement by fans of the book, many of whom believe the sprawling Shantaram — at more than 900 pages long — was more suitable to be an extended series than a feature film.
“I’m honoured and humbled in equal measure as a writer, and thrilled for the many readers who have hoped that Shantaram would become a vivid screen experience,” Roberts said at the time. “Television is the perfect medium for the novel.”
What is 'Shantaram' about?
Set in the 1980s, the semi-autobiographical novel tells the story of an Australian robber and heroine addict, Lindsay, who escapes prison in Victoria and lands in India with a false passport. Intending it to be just a stopover on his way to Germany, Lindsay is forced to extend his stay through various twists of fate and soon becomes enamoured by life in India.
He then sets out on various life-changing adventures, from living in the slums to working for the Mumbai underworld and even landing roles as an extra in Bollywood.
The book's title is the adoptive Indian name given to Lindsay by his friend's mother, which means "man of god's peace".
Who is the cast in 'Shantaram'?
English actor Charlie Hunnam, best know for his role in Sons of Anarchy, will play the role of Lindsay/Shantaram. He will be joined by Shubham Saraf, last seen in Netflix series A Suitable Boy; English actor Alexander Siddig, known for roles in Syriana and Cairo Time; and Australian actor Fayssal Bazzi.
Other cast members include Elektra Kilbey, Luke Pasqualino, Antonia Desplat, Alyy Khan, Sujaya Dasgupta, Vincent Perez, David Field, Gabrielle Scharnitzky, Elham Ehsas, Rachel Kamath, Matthew Joseph and Shiv Palekar.
British writer and producer Steve Lightfoot, known for hit Netflix thriller Behind Her Eyes as well as Marvel's The Punisher, will serve as executive producer and showrunner. It will be directed by Bharat Nalluri, best known for the 2017 film The Man Who Invented Christmas.
When will 'Shantaram' be released?
The first three episodes of Shantaram will begin streaming on October 12 on Apple TV+. There will be 12 episodes in total, with one new episode released weekly every Friday.