'Shantaram' star Charlie Hunnam hopes fans don't expect 'Anarchy' in India

Charlie Hunnam's drama "Shantaram" premieres Friday. Photo courtesy of Apple TV+.
1 of 5 | Charlie Hunnam's drama "Shantaram" premieres Friday. Photo courtesy of Apple TV+.

NEW YORK, Oct. 13 (UPI) -- Sons of Anarchy icon Charlie Hunnam says he wanted to star in Shantaram because the Apple TV+ drama is a fascinating tale of survival and redemption that allowed him to explore psychology and philosophy in the not-too-distant past.

Premiering Friday, the adaptation of Gregory David Roberts' novel follows Australian paramedic, fugitive armed robber and recovering drug addict Lin Ford (Hunnam) as he tries to start a new life in 1980s Bombay. There, he falls in love with the mysterious Karla (Antonia Desplat), and goes into business with the eternally optimistic Prabhu (Shubham Saraf).


Elektra Kilbey, Luke Pasqualino, Alexander Siddig, Richard Roxburgh and Vincent Perez co-star in the series, which was written and executive produced by Steve Lightfoot.

"Redemption is the first leg of the journey," Hunnam told reporters in a recent Zoom interview.


"But there is ultimately no 'there' there, right?" mused the 42-year-old British actor. "Once you've found redemption, it's almost a state of neutrality and, then, where do you go from there?

"For me, the big, big, exciting theme of this is navigating the eternal relationship of light and darkness. It's a journey through the dark to get back to the light for Lin and all of the characters."

Desplat, a 28-year-old French actress added, "All of the characters are in search of their identity. They've all escaped their troubled pasts or lives they wanted to leave behind."

While it might be in their best interests to keep low profiles to avoid drawing attention to themselves, Lin and Karla are drawn to Reynaldo's bar, at which Bombay's colorful communities of expats and criminals mingle. It isn't long before they end up risking their lives to save a friend.

Lin also is soon called upon to help the people of Prabhu's village, who embraced him when he had no money or even shoes.

"I don't know if he has a hero complex to begin with. It really is simple self-preservation," Hunnam said.

"I don't think he is viewing himself as the hero of his own story or has any great aspirations to be a fixing force in the world," the actor emphasized.


"He's protected and supported by a group of people he, ultimately, feels indebted to and feels like he needs to reciprocate their kindness and support. Almost reluctantly, he rises to the challenge of being a hero in whatever small capacity he is able to do that."

Karla has different motives.

"She gets so caught up in this idea that she needs to validate her fatherly love and the fatherly figure that she wants to impress," Desplat said, referring to Khader Khan (Siddig), Karla's gangster associate.

"She's trying so hard to be this strong, independent woman and try to get rid of her fears and get rid of her demons, which end up catching up to her, which I think is when there is a massive pivotal point from Episode 8 onward.

"She is trying to redeem her actions by trying to be kinder and do something for others that might make her guilt a little more digestible."

The show takes place before the advent of smartphones and ubiquitousness of surveillance cameras, making it easier to disappear for those who want to.

But Desplat said the cast and crew didn't want to overwhelm viewers with period details to constantly remind them that the story was unwinding in the 1980s.


"It still feels like a very tangible world and it feels like it's organic," she said.

"We don't have huge hair and fun outfits. For our world, the most important thing was to make it real and make it as relatable and human as possible. The music that comes with it is so exciting and fun. We have great tunes in the show, but when I came onto the set, I never thought it was screaming the '80s!"

Hunnam said the show was supposed to be filmed entirely on location in India, but had to be moved to Thailand because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"It felt like a tremendous sacrifice to let go of India, but Thailand welcomed us with open arms. Wwe had an amazing production designer, Chris Kennedy, who was able to replicate and create some of the magic," he recalled.

Desplat agreed it all worked out for the best, noting it would have been impossible to shut down city streets in India, meaning pedestrians in modern clothing likely would have ended up in some of the show's scenes.

"It was a curse and a blessing," she said of the change in location.

Hunnam may be pictured riding a motorcycle in ads, but he admitted he spends very little time riding a bike on the show.


"It was part of the book. Lin in the book has quite a love affair with his Triumph. I wouldn't have picked that bike if I was him, but I understand it was of the time and the place," the actor said.

"I understand why we released that picture, because I have quite a big following from [outlaw biker drama] Sons of Anarchy, but, ultimately, I don't think there is much comparison between the shows. I hope people don't expect Sons of Anarchy in India because, unfortunately, we are not going to deliver that."

He laughed when Desplat teased him about not being allowed to ride the motorcycle because of insurance reasons.

"I toured around on the back of a bike a lot and acted as though I was riding it, which was somewhat humiliating," Human said. "But it's just part of the job."

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