Thursday, August 23, 2007

Shantaram -- Gregory David Roberts

The storyline: The novel is a part-fictionalized account of the author's (Gregory David Roberts) life. The prelude is told in just a couple paragraphs: Roberts is a robber and heroine addict-cum-smuggler, who escapes from a maximum security prison in Australia, flies away to New Zealand and then finally comes to Bombay. From then on, the book is the knock-out story of his life in Bombay.

His fascination with 'the Indian experience', his friendship with the funny-broken-english-speaking Prabhakar (whose mother gives Roberts the name Shantaram), his experiences in the Bombay mafia as the righthand-man and mentee to crime lord Kader Bhai, lots of crime, violence AND a love story :) is what the novel is about.
[The interesting thing about this Roberts guy is that not only is he a most-wanted criminal, he is a poet, a philosopher, a philanthropist and also a kind-of-doctor (yes, even in real-life)]

The narration: I was totally won over by the brilliant but uncomplicated writing ("... as I walked along the umbilical corridor that connected the plane to the airport"). Roberts is cleverly articulate and he weaves (as opposed to writes) scenes. Downside - if you are interested in just the plot, then you might find the wordiness a little overboard.

Roberts is totally fascinated by India and sees (and makes us see) beauty in all things Indian - things that are so innate to everyday life in India that we would typically brush it off as mundane.

My recommendation: Do try it.

[Warning: The book is a 950+ page tome :) and not always fast paced.]


  • Roberts plans to write a prequel (his pre-Bombay life) and a sequel to the book.
  • Mira Nair takes the director's seat for the screenplay adaptation of the book. The movie will star Johnny Depp as Shantaram and Amitabh Bachchan as a Kader Bhai.

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