Shantaram is a very lively book and touches vast canvass. It captures Bombay’s life, sponsored terrorism and deals with unified Islamic power also. It deals with refugee problems, it tackles slums, it covers human trafficking, it shows police atrocities and it describes illegal trades also. Mystery, drugs, sex and violence etc are parts of the plot and bounty of human emotions like love, hate, intrigues etc, are also there and faith and miracles also occupy a place in the plot. Its like combining Shidney Sheldon and Paulo Coelho. I think its much more interesting than both of these.
This is a pity that neither any Hindi cinema director could pick up this interesting book nor any big Hindi cinema producer could buy the rights to make a film on this wonderful book. Johnny Depp is doing what biggies of hindi cinema should have done.
To do full justice with this subject one has to have the capability to maintain international treatment of the subject and at same time Indian flavor should not be lost because that is the basic ground beneath the subject.
Right casting is very important in such a vast subject.
0. Main character Lindsay, Linbaba aka Shantaram :
Demands an actor like Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp who could look tough at times and who could also handle emotions well. Johnny Depp is playing the central character. He has vulnerability to do full justice to this role.
The name came after his simple indian mother Rukhminbai Kisan Kharre , mother of close friend Prabhakar.
1. Khader Bhai:
Amitabh Bachchan has rightly been selected to play this character. Khader Bhai basically belongs to a ruler family of an Afgan tribe. He controls the organised crime in Bombay. He is powerful, mysterious and yet so many times he looks so humane whenever he is filled with emotions only, towards his dear ones. Different facets of his character are revealed slowly in the book. His character consists of many twists and its difficult for Lindsay to define him in clear cut black and white category. It has more shades and this character has more relevance in modern times because of his association with Islamic powers trying to make a union. His life, from childhood to his death, demands a separate film.
David might have created character of Khader Bhai , the Mafia boss, on the basis of some real life mafia dons of Bombay but he certainly had kept personality (may be on screen persona) of Amitabh Bachchan in his mind while defining traits of this character. While reading the book, it seems at so many places that Amitabh is present in the book in the form of Khader Bhai.
2. Prabhakar :
He is a young (24-25 years old) Indian tourist guide with whom Lindsay meets as soon as he gets down from the bus after reaching to Bombay. Prabhakar is very important character in the book as he is the first person who introduces Lindsay to India and Indian realities. Prabhakar takes Lindsay to his village in the interior of Maharashtra and where Lindsay actually gets the name Shantaram from Prabhakar’s mother. Prabhakar is first Indian friend of Shantaram. Through Prabhakar, Shantaram’s views about India are formed. He has an emotional relationship with Prabhakar. When Prabhakar dies then this loss is not less emotional than the separation of Jai and Veeru in Sholay, after Jai is killed. Prabhakar’s death leaves a sad void in the plot and in the life of Shantaram also, a void which can not be filled again.
Prabhakar has an infectious laugh. He wants to help Shantaram in any case whether he has capability or not. He first gives him name Lin on the basis of Shivlinga. He calls him Lin Baba.
3 Abdullah Tahiri :
He is an Iranian by birth and basically he is a fighter in the gang of Khader Bhai. A quiet person by nature and he is a devoted follower of Khader Bhai but dangerous for their enemies. Abhishek Bacchan suits well for such roles.
4 Qasim Ali Hussain :
He is a friend of Khader Bhai and manages the slums developed on the grounds occupied by Khader Bhai. He is also a powerful person but he is calm and caring person in nature. He takes care of the people living in the slums controlled by him. He is chief of the slums in every sense. He is not educated but he is sensible and he motivates Lin to do social works in slums and arranges every kind of help he needs. Nana Patekar actors for this character if he has to be shown in age category of Khaderbhai
5 Prabhakar’s parents,
Rukhaminbai & Kisan, typical farmer family from North Maharashtrian village. Story of gunddas/dakeths from near by village had been kicked aways by Rukhaminbai and villages. If scenes of Prabhakar’s village, given in the book, are kept in the film also and scenes when they visit slums in Bombay are also kept then these are good supporting roles and have enough scope for actors to make their presence visible and appealing.
She is a beautiful European woman. She is always a mystery for Lin. He is attracted towards her but she has always something hidden about her which brings a new facet of hers before Lin and he is left astonished. Kate Winslet (she is quite old not to do the role, can go with make up) fits the role and consideration that she already has enough exposure towards India, closely and living with Indian family there for days might have exposed her more about India and these things may bring authenticity in her performance. Later, during the shooting of Holi Smoke also she had lived in India. In the book, she has been living in India for years and now its her real home and she does not wish to go back.
Karla and Lin’s love story has western shades and its like a regular love story based Hollywood film where characters meet and separate many times before final union or departure. It’s a mini film inside a big film and will bring an interesting watch specially because of the fact that Lin does not know all things about Karla and he even does not know that all this time when she was dating him, she was working for Khader Bhai. But their love story will bring many interesting romantic scenes, specially when they visit Goa.
7. Vikram Patel,
He is son of a rich man. He is highly impressed with Client Eastwood and other western films and always appears in that get up only. He makes friends with Karla and Shantaram and Dildier. He ultimately marries Karla’s friend. He is funny at times but he is not scared in going with Lin to fight with criminals. He is also not a character with single dimension characteristics and an actor needs to show different moods of the character. Govinda perhaps will not do it and Arshad Warsi is other name who will shine in this role. Vikram does many stunts to impress Litty – Letita in love. Finally gets her to settle down.
8. Madam Zhao,
This mysterious madame runs a brothel for rich and powerful in Bombay. Very few people have seen her as she lives in her mansion and does not come out. Many stories are floating there about her. Karla and Lin meet her to take away a friend of Karla who is working as a prostitute in her brothel.
Simi Garewal and Rekha both are capable to play this role if role has to be played by an Indian actress. Madam Zhao in the book is most bad character in book. With Proper make up Kangana may look like the character described in the book. Otherwise many aged Hollywood actresses are there to play this role.
9. Kanu the Bear,
Kanu keeps an important place in the book but its not certain that film will also keep this animal in the film. Not sure if shooting with animals is still allowed in India or not? To keep joy factor intact in the film, Kanu bear, should be there.
Yes, the bear was sent by Abdulla as gift to give a actual bear hug. It was great fun to read around bear story, This bear once goes to jail, finally sent safely outside Maharashtra along with Ganapati statue to avoid trouble.
10. Other characters,
There are many characters in the film and in the international gang of Khader Bhai there are several characters which have importance in the plot like Khaled Ansari, Abdul Ghani – the traitor, Raju bhai, new lads who join the concil after Khader bhai like Sanjay, Salman, Farid, Andrew, Aamir. Nazeer – body guard of Khaderbhai.
Many actors of Black Friday team can be used in the characters living in slums and who are friends of Prabhakar and Lin. It includes characters like Johny Cigar, Jeetendra, Radha (Jeetu's wife), Parvati (Prabhakar's wife), Sita, Anand (man who killed Rafig in hate), Satish- kid, Joseph & Maria, Andhkar (dark black man in seen of Joseph's punishment), Ranjit-medical drug, Ranjeet- Jeet- Karla's bf, Big Rahul – in Jail, Manoj – in jail, Ulla, Medona & his friends rival of Lin, Lettita, African don based in dongari – who disperses dead bodies in hole, Member of Khader bhai's council, blind singers & their story, friends on the way to Afganistan-Kandhar via Quatta (Pak), Lin's friend while running away from Australian jail, Lin's philosophy proff, Khader bhai's scientist connection from Bhabha, spiritual guru fro m Varanasi, Abdulla's love & Farid's cousin from Delhi, Ramesh, Anand- Hotel/Lodge owner, standing babas, Guptaji's den, small kids' selling den, . It goes on :-)
There were other small roles like Habib- the madman, Ahmad, Allaudin, Muzahiddin fighters and helpers.
I think its really difficult task to put whole book in single movie. I don't mind if director make it part-1 part-2. Roberts is busy with writting another book on his next life. That can sure be part-3 depending on movie's box office collection.
Khader Bhai loves his nephew Tariq and role of this child can be played by any of the child actor. They may make this small role memorable.
Lately AB has not been getting challenging roles. Good roles, which could help him to grow further as an actor, have been away from him. All of his present days directors are not thinking beyond the work, already done by him in the past. And in such scenario Khader Bhai’s character brings a golden opportunity before him to show his fine acting skills.
Khader Bhai is the call of Amitabh Bachchan only. He fits very well in the role in every sense. This is not call of any of the actor Pankaj Kapoor, OM Puri or Naseeruddin Shah as book does not contain their influence on the character.
To select AB in the role of Khader Bhai indicates that Mira Nair is walking on right path and it shows that she has understood the character well.
Depp has selected Mira Nair as the director for this project. It will be first of its kind for Mira Nair and perhaps Salam Bombay could have been the basis for Johnny Depp to decide in favour of Mira Nair as her first film deals with slums in Bombay and Shantaram also covers life in slums. We have to see what kind of treatment Mira Nair gives to this big subject. She has adapted books on screen in the past also but first time she will be handling organised crime which covers burning issue of unified Islamic power also. It’s a wonderful opportunity for Mira Nair as a director, as seldom directors get such a subject where they have to cover different kinds of sub plots also.
There are many great quotes from the book :
- Its important to do right thing but reason is more important that thing. Its right to do wrong thing for right reason, but its wrong to do right thing for wrong reason.
- We always need to reach to complexity which ultimately revels to discovery of God.
- Men look away while saying wrong, women do it with deep eye contact. So, difficult to understand whats right or wrong !
Here is link to public website : http://www.shantaram.com/
I was flying back from Paris Charles De Goule airport. While waiting in boarding queue, i found a English guy reading "Shantaram".
I asked him."Hey, have u finished reading shantaram"!
"Not yet, i'll soon finish it. Its nice book"
"Yes. I have read it once. Its really wonderful book with pace & every details"
he accepted, "yeah, right!"
I tried to check how much he remember about Shataram,"So, hows Karla, Khader, linbaba? Do you like them?"
Surprisingly said,"You know all of them!!Good. Karla is good, mysterious beauty & soul. Its good story!"
We discsussed few more thing like, where are you flying & bla bla..
It was good to see someone who knows & think as you are thinking...at such unexpected time :-)