Paramount Television and Anonymous Content’s 10-part TV adaptation of Gregory David Roberts’ novel Shantaram will shoot in Melbourne thanks to grants from the Federal Government and Film Victoria.
Justin Kurzel, who is directing the first two episodes, is holding auditions for the production commissioned by Apple TV, which will shoot in October.
Published in 2003, the novel follows Lindsay, a bank robber and heroin addict who escapes from Melbourne’s Pentridge Prison and flees to India, which mirrors the author’s experience.
Landing in Bombay, he is forced to live in the slums, which shelters him from the authorities. He sets up a free health clinic as a way to contribute to the community, learns about the local culture and customs and becomes fluent in Marathi, the local language.
He also witnesses and battles outbreaks of cholera and firestorms and becomes involved in trading with the lepers.
Joel Edgerton was attached to play the lead when Johnny Depp had the rights and the project was set up as a feature film for Warner Bros., but neither is involved.
The Federal Government will provide $7.4 million through the Location Incentive program, supported by Film Victoria’s Production Incentive Attraction Fund.
The 11 months shoot is expected to inject $46 million into the Victorian economy, employ around 330 cast and crew and use the services of more than 500 local businesses.
Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher said: “Shantaram is a mesmerising Australian story and this series will bring it to life for a new generation, creating further jobs for our world-class screen industry.”
Produced by Anonymous Content’s Steve Golin and Nicole Clemens and Paramount Television and scripted by Eric Warren Singer, the series will be filmed at Docklands Studios, Pentridge Prison and other locations, some of which will substitute for Mumbai.
Richard Sharkey is the line producer and Nikki Barrett is handling the Australian casting.
Film Victoria CEO Caroline Pitcher said: “Film Victoria’s increased focus on international markets, including the US, helped drive a record $251 million in direct production expenditure for the state in the last financial year, up 18 per cent on the year prior. We’ve also seen a 46 per cent increase in pitch requests form Australian and international crews wanting to film here.
“Securing productions such as Shantaram for Victoria, which comes off the back of US series Preacher, builds on this momentum, generating jobs and skills development opportunities for our local industry.”
The Australian Government had previously announced $80 million through the Incentive for six productions, which will generate nearly $600 million in investment in Australia’s economy.