Shantaram Study Guide

Shantaram is the action-filled story of Lin, a character based very closely on the author, Gregory David Roberts. The novel chronicles approximately seven years in Roberts' amazing life, from his arrival in Bombay in 1982 until his departure from Bombay in the late eighties (though we don't actually get an account of the departure in the novel, it is implied). In the course of this time, Roberts' fictional self, Lin, participates in numerous violent, funny, moving and dangerous events, from the intimately personal (falling in love) to the global/historical (participating in the resistance against the Russians in Afghanistan).

Reviews of Shantaram were generally positive, though some critics, such as Julie Wittes Schlack of The Boston Globe, criticized the novel's sprawling design. She writes that it is "[a] shapeless collection of action episodes, strung together by macho ruminations about the nature of love, trust, courage, and, of course, freedom." Other critics emphasized the "fun" experience of reading Shantaram despite its philosophical ambitions. Despite these critical reservations, Shantaram soon attracted a broad readership as well as a cult following. Indeed, the elements of the book that seemed to turn-off most reviewers -- its sincerity, enthusiasm, sprawl, and philosophical aspirations -- appealed to the general readership of the novel.

Shantaram attracted the attention of many outside of the literary world as well, notably Russell Crowe and Johnny Depp, both of whom admired the novel and contemplated ushering into film production. Roberts himself chose Depp to produce and star in the film, noting that Shantaram would only work as a movie if the protagonist were as honestly in love with India as he is. He said, “Johnny Depp has a lot of Indian friends. The way he spoke about them has made me realize that he was the best actor who could bring that love to the film.”

Despite Depp's enthusiasm, Shantaram the movie has been delayed several times. As of now, the film is "ramping up for production" (according to the Internet Movie Database) and Depp is scheduled to play the role of Lin, with Gregory David Roberts credited as screenwriter. Mira Nair, one of the most prominent Indian directors to cross over to American cinema, is on board to direct the film.