Exclusive: Charlie Hunnam On ‘Shantaram’, Visiting India & More
The wait is finally over…the much awaited adaptation of Gregory David Roberts’ 2003 bestselling novel ‘Shantaram’ is finally here.
Starring ‘Sons Of Anarchy’ star Charlie Hunnam as Lin Ford, a fugitive on the run who arrives in Bombay, India in the 1980’s from Australia under a fake identity in this Apple TV+ original series.
Partly inspired by Roberts’ own life, Charlie Hunnam admits being drawn to the book and its story from the moment he read it seven years ago. Charting Lin’s journey as he reconciles with his dark past and embraces a new life, Charlie Hunnam admits being familiar with the source material years before the filming began. “I had a specific sense of who I thought Lin was and I could really understand and relate psychologically to the struggle, that’s why I feel he is brilliant as an author because it’s deeply related to most humans. It’s him trying to figure out who he is and what will make his life be meaningful and how to reconcile the dark and light of his soul”, says the actor.
From book to screens ‘Shantaram’ has had its own journey. Initially to be adapted by filmmaker Mira Nair and co-produced by actor Johnny Deep who was to play the lead in the project that was later shelved due to several logistical issues.
Producer Simon Lightfoot who has also co-written the screenplay says he was a fan of the book says though Gregory David Roberts allowed the team complete freedom for its on screen adaptation. “The book was my lone star, its moved so many people and though we may have had to change for plot here and there but we kept the tone and the humanity and humour of the book intact”, says Lightfoot.
The French Dispatch actor Antonia Desplat plays the mysterious Karla, a business woman who shares a complicated relationship with Lin (Hunnam). Actor & Musician Elektra Kilbey plays Lisa a sex worker and an addict who is looked after for by Karla. The actors are unanimous that the female characters in the book own their space and have agency.
“As a foreigner roles like these don’t come very often and I am a foreigner living in a foreign land so I really related to the expat experience. Also the fact that she is constantly in search of her identity and was very intrigued by the enigma that she represents and also wanted to make her as complex and as human as possible”, says Desplat.
Recreating India of the 1980’s could have been a daunting task especially since production had to move to Bangkok due to the pandemic the aesthetic set designs are impressive. Charlie Hunnam admits to taking a trip to Mumbai with his fiancée to see India on his own terms. “To have my own adventure and let India show what it wanted to show us…we travelled across from Rishikesh To Varanasi. I hope to spend a lot of time in the future”, says Hunnam who even picked up some Hindi and Marathi.
His co-stars Antonia Desplat and Elektra Kilbey acquainted themselves with the ‘Bombay’ in Roberts’ novel. “We went to Leopold’s Cafe, had lunch at the Taj and walked around Colaba. We walked for hours around Mumbai to get a feel of being foreigners in Mumbai, see how people interact with us”, says Antonia.
Shantaram will premiere on Apple TV+ from Oct 14 .