Based on the internationally best-selling Memoir of the same name by Gregory David Roberts, SHANTARAM debuted a couple weeks back on Apple TV+ and quickly has surged to the top on the streaming service. Fronted by the very talented Charlie Hunnam, the Series takes us on an Australian man’s journey in the ’70s as a fugitive, finding a new life in Bombay under a new name, Lin. We are swept away into a dark underworld of crime and humbling life in the slums. Lin must grapple with love, carving out his own place in his new surroundings, yet avoid his past.
Though a Canadian Premiere was to be celebrated earlier this month, we learned that Hunnam had contracted COVID-19 after the Series’ Premiere in Los Angeles which delayed plans. After having visited and filmed (Pacific Rim, Crimson Peak) in Toronto on numerous occasions over this past decade, his love for this City knows no limits. Delivering on their promise of a visit, a Midseason Celebration of SHANTARAM was held at TIFF Bell Lightbox featuring Hunnam and Co-Stars Antonia Desplat (Karla), Elektra Kilbey (Lisa) and Shubham Saraf (Prabhu). Fans in attendance got a first glimpse of Episode Six, which premieres this coming Friday.
We were so excited to chat with this exciting Ensemble from what hopefully will result in additional seasons of the Series.
Hunnam tells us what exactly happened resulting in a delay in these Canadian celebrations for SHANTARAM.
Hunnam: “It was terrible. I had two torn discs in my back and the first day I got Covid, I sneezed and coughed a lot, reinjuring my back, so I had eight days where I couldn’t move at all. But we’re here now and smiling again.”.
We congratulate him on all his success with this Series – reaching #1 spot on Apple TV+. This been a long-time coming, but actually isn’t something new for him. SONS OF ANARCHY which had him starring in the beloved role of Jax Teller garnered huge numbers for FX over its seven seasons.
Hunnam: “I have a self-protection mechanism that once a show comes out, I divorce myself from it completely. I don’t look at any ratings, but I am happy to hear we’re #1! You made my day, I really didn’t know that!”.
SHANTARAM actually isn’t Fiction. We are curious about Hunnam‘s research for the role of Lin and his own relationship with the man whom inspired his character, Gregory David Roberts.
Hunnam: “I had the incredible opportunity spending four days with Greg in Jamaica and I’m so interested in the things he has challenged himself to explore in his life. The nature of God, the nature of what it is to be human, to bringing your highest potential into reality – all that kinda stuff. I found myself in that transitional period in my late 30s into 40, I was thinking about a lot of those things at the time that I was given this Book for the first time.”.
“When I met him, we spent about 16 hours a day chainsmoking joints, just listening to him put on these Harvard University-style lectures on Theology, Philosophy and Psychology. Really such an incredible mind. Very honoured to spend those four days with him.”.
And of course, we had to know the first thing he did after landing in Toronto for this two-day Press Tour.
Hunnam: “Khao San Road. The Thai Restaurant!”.
One of the most fascinating characters in SHANTARAM is Lisa, played by Elektra Kilbey – a prostitute who is battling her own demons. The Series explores women as commodities, but Lisa re-frames this narrative. We ask Kilbey about this.
Kilbey: “I feel like Lisa at the beginning starts at rock-bottom and her arc has her taking agency of her own life, taking command of her own life and realizing she’s going to have to change things in her own life to be the kind of woman she wants to be. And I think she keeps getting roped into other people’s bullshit. If you think about Lisa, her and Prabhu are the sincerest characters on the show. Though Lisa is a lot darker and a bit more damaged I guess.”.
This actually isn’t Kilbey‘s first time in Toronto. Her and twin sister Anna have a Band called SAY LOU LOU and they have been in-town prior for a show at The Garrison back 2015. We ask her about her initial impressions of the City.
Kilbey: “It was an amazing show and we hung at Kensington Market. Super-cool city.”.
Shubham Saraf who plays Lin‘s friend and tour guide Prabhu, starred in TIFF ’20 selection A SUITABLE BOY but with a mostly-online format that year, the Festival saw no talent come amidst the pandemic restrictions. He got his chance to visit this time around and tells us his thoughts also on Toronto.
Saraf: “Beautiful. Toronto in Autumn. I just went to Grange Park today and went to the Art Gallery of Ontario and it felt like I was literally inside a poster for Canada. When the leaves turn, the sun, the Tower. It was really like a mixture of nature and Brutalism. I loved it.
We ask about the palpable friendly chemistry between him and Co-Star Hunnam which we see on-screen.
Saraf: “It helps that I hadn’t met him (Hunnam) till literally our first scene together – a key scene to develop their relationship, and within the scene I was like, ‘I like thus guy!’. And I think he also was like, ‘Hey! I like this guy!’. It was really fun. Prabhu’s had the hardest life and all he tries to do is overcome those boundaries with love. That’s the best thing to do, the best thing to embody.”.
Antonia Desplat delivers a commanding performance as Karla, a woman whom Lin falls in love with. She is mysterious and has deeply-entrenched ties to the crime underworld in Bombay. She walks us through Karla‘s world.
Desplat: “Karla‘s big battle is between power and love. By getting herself stuck into the dark underworld of the Bombay Mafia, she’s trying to assert a certain power and a certain personality in order to protect her more vulnerable side. Lin is a catalyst to bringing that side out of her because she’s trying to control other people’s perception of her. With Lin, that’s the first time those barriers can fall down and she can just be. Episode Five is where you can just see Karla for the first time.”,
We ask Desplat about her working processes with both Hunnam and Alexander Siddig, who plays Khader Khan, one of this most powerful Crime Lords in Bombay.
Desplat: “They have quite different processes. Charlie is very spontaneous and he keeps me on my toes. Alexander Siddig he will all the sudden say a line and I’m like, ‘Where did that come from?’. Sometimes he keeps it reserved when it’s for his coverage and surprises me on my coverage with a very strong presence I didn’t expect. Sometimes it’s the other way around and it keeps it fun!
A Reel from the Evening:
SHANTARAM streams now on Apple TV+ with new episodes arriving Fridays till December 16, 2022.
(Photo/video credit: Mr. Will Wong/Apple TV+)
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