When Shantaram was published in 2003, Gregory David Roberts’ semi-autobiographical novel immediately captured the imagination of readers and Hollywood talent alike. With its sweeping story of an escaped bank robber who flees Victoria’s Pentridge Prison for Bombay in the 1980s, it seemed destined to be brought to the big screen. But despite having a number of high profile actors (Russell Crowe and Johnny Depp among them) attached to the project, the production went into hiatus several times over the course of 20 years. Eventually, with Paramount TV and Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam attached as the series’ lead, it became a reality – but this time around as a TV show instead of a film.
Initially, the production was to be shot in Australia. Specifically, Melbourne and Mumbai were to be used as locations for key scenes that would recreate Roberts’ jailbreak from Pentridge prison. However, with the country’s COVID-19 restrictions and the departure of executive producer Eric Warren Singer (leading to a writing backlog), the shoot was pushed back and the producers were forced to relocate.
As a result, the team was able to film a large number of pivotal debut season scenes in Bangkok, Thailand. The city’s Chinatown was used to depict Mumbai’s streets while a real shantytown (known as the Bhopal Refugee Camp) was built on the outskirts of the city to serve as the backdrop for some of the series’ most memorable scenes.
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