Well…its been much time since I finished reading Shantaram and this is just an effort to organise the thoughts I had written that time. There will be lot of discontinuity (proper bulleting should be imagined) and lack of flow (which has become common with any thing I do these days). Lot of spoilers and also might not make sense if you have not read the novel.

When I read Shantaram, I had thought it was all real-story (word to word) as the cover page claims, but it was much later did I come to know that it was a dramatisation of the real events. It means that the characters were real, the events were more real but there was lot of decoration as well. Nothing wrong with it, infact is very necessary and is completely given as “creative freedom” of a writer but my not knowing it meant that I did not consider the things “with a pinch of salt”.

So here goes sequentially the thoughts as I procedeed reading. Arranging this formally was a monstrous task and which explains the delay. Even if you don’t read first 2 parts, do read the third one. That is the one written after the finishing of the novel and makes more sense than the others and is kind of total summary.
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I can’t imagine anyone’s life can be so dramatic and filmy with as many turns and twists.Also that this is just a slice of his life and he has planned 3 more books on his life.

The one liners are good but some quotes are just for the sake of it and meaning is not right overall (but will apply to the context.)

I had heard that this would be made into a movie. This makes that I keep thinking of how it would come out in the movie version and what details can not be captured in film and realize that the writing gives great flexibility that can never be matched by film. For example the monologues form a good feature of the book and I doubt if it can be that effective in the film.

Also, I have bit of characterisation…(unfortunately my knowledge is only hindi actors though the film is hollywood). You can tell me what you think.
Head of Slum : Om puri
Khader: Nana Patekar
Prabhaker : That person in swades who talks about the deal of Dhabas in america. Prabhaker’s father same person double acting.
Prabhaker’s mother : Rohini Hattangadi
Karla : Tabu (she is too Indian..but I cant think of any other girl who can express such intensity, sorrow and elegant beauty)
Abdullah: Sunil Shetty (bad choice..but I don’t find another dumb and tall guy!)

I am sure there will be a place for Atul Kulkarni… 🙂
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Prabhaker died !
Filled with grief I could not read further.

I was thiking whether there was logical end to all characters and stories. Because at one time I felt too many characters and stories and in real life everything need not end (or am I wrong) in a befitting climax matching the begin of stories/lives.
I wanted to know. But both Prabhaker and Abdullah are gone before I could wink twice (well not really..but it was sure hell as fast for Lin), I sense the beginning of the end of the book and thus all stories (I might be wrong – there are still 350 pages more) and if this is the kind of ending the characters(oops lives) are going to meet, then it better not end logically 🙁

He mentions about a political goonda, also Khader khan/Sapna or the blue sisters –wonder if they were in news for the general public then !

Coming to the village, it should not be tough to dig into archives and find the village as there is a good story reference of the dacoit etc (may be again I am wrong..it might be impossible!).

One thing I have to say, he has lived a long life full of stories/events. Sometimes I wonder what will I see when I look back when I am 50 – so eventless life, unbelievably ordinary life I am leading.[But I take little solace, as always to console myself, to observe that there are lives more ordinary and eventless than mine.] It is not that I am complaining or something, just a curious thought. The another book I suggest anyone to read is Feynman’s bio (Surely you are joking or Genius). His life is also fascinating(in a different way) and long 🙂

His boat ride to Karla was damn sweet as was Vikram’s propose !)

Lastly (for now), few more actors to fit the roles :
Didier – Naseerudin Sha [again very Indian..but..]
Vikram – but for the lack of built I wud have suggested that eccentric 5th boy in RDB (one who dies virgin).
Ulla – don’t laugh…Mahima Choudary.

Also reminds me of Sanju baba..yes..sanju needs a role in this saga! also…vikram might be saif.

But Nana as Lord Khader is one role I am not able to think of anyone else and am more and more convinced.

And oh .. forgot to include my fav Abhishek…now that I am not left with many roles, Abhi will be hero. Linbaba :)) (Oh..he has to grow a bit old for that…but I can wait instead of burdening already exhausted BigB)…yeah..sanju wud be good choice too..

I am pathetic at casting..argh..let me stop now.

How will I go back and pick up the book…Karla is missing (or rather that bugger Lin is not interested)..and with Prabhaker gone, it is difficult to continue…Prabhaker’s death was something that was very cruel..if some story writer had done that to his character, I would have labelled that writer cruel hearted..but this was life..and the scriptwriter was God/fate…

Feel like meeting Lin sometime !!

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Finished reading Shantaram !! Could not keep the book down yesterday..went until 4 am 🙂

A long rant (if I remember to tell all that I have been thinking…)

1)Comebacks:
First Abdullah is back…he he..I liked all the comebacks. That of Modena was not a surprise but that of Ulla was one. I really felt so good for Modena..an optimist to the height. Ofcourse the comeback of Abdullah was a big surprise. Wished deep inside my heart that Prabhaker too does, somehow in a miraculous way, but I rememberd that his body was done with but Abdullah’s wasn’t. That’s when I guessed Modena/Khaled would be back. But Khaled’s was a strange behaviour(I didn’t understand why he had to go pale faced like that to mountain – is it of the grief of killing Hamed or that Hamed had killed other 2 guys. In anycase, killing should not matter to those fighters who were anyways out to kill people. Also why others did not stop him. Much irony. Be it whatever it is, his escape I now see as a coward act to get into hiding and run back to Delhi (or Varanasi) instead of going out there and fighting.

But Prabhaker too was back, in his son.

2)Animals:
Liked the depiction of all animals. That of wild dogs (damn scary). That of the rat in jail – painful. More painful when he blames himself for Prabhaker’s death – giving him taxi. I was reminded of quantum physics. Our very measuring it destroys its state.
That of rats – rats bigger than cats ?? In hundreds or thousands…running one over the other to reach the height of his knee, for 15 minutes ? Unimaginable. Horse. I remember one of my friends being stunned to see horse when he saw for first time in real, so huge and so strong. I wish animals were never tamed by men. Sheep/Goat. Used as food only. To rear animals, to feed them only to eat them is so cruel a thought.

Coming back(I digress a lot), the episodes with Horse evoked much laughter.
And its death much tears.

His clinging like a monkey was much fun 🙂

And the best was Kano. My heart goes to him as would anyone’s. Greg missed a chance to draw a small parallel that he could have with Kano’s incident. First, Kano like Lin, broke the prison(cage) and was a fugitive with wanted posters all around the city. He uses the same hut used by Lin. Then he is helped by his friends to run away. Much fun. Finally, Lin does Kano what he had done others to escape or himself to escape and run – false identity. Lin gave people false passports and gave Kano false mask of Ganesha, carrying his professionalism and mimicking his job. [With this brilliant analysis , hoping to impress Greg with my analysis and writing skills! 😉 ]

3)Fav characters:
Undoubtedly on the top of the list is Kano, followed by Prabhaker,Didier,Vikram ,Modena, Karla, Khader,Lisa
Kano for what I already explained. Prabhaker simply coz he was presented to be too adorable. If a reader does anything but like him, it would be an insult to the message the author is conveying. A person (reader) can’t explain his own liking towards Prabhaker and his(Prabhaker’s) impact is left large with the untimely tragic accident death. One death, that had no reason,only to allow for much “chance” or “fate” to breathe in the story which otherwise was much “planned”. Only to remind back again that some nice people die young because God can not be without them for too long. Only to remind again that there will still be unanswered questions in the larger picture of life.

Anohter note is that, there are two kinds of “take-you-for-granted”- one making you insignificant and neglecting you. Another involving you without your permission. While the former shows the domination/negligence, the latter is admiration and knowing the person. Prabhaker does lot of second type – beginning from his naming to Lin, putting him in train (branding him mad) to other small things.
Didier and Vikram – the ideal friends. They don’t fuss with you. They don’t take undue advantage of you. And they are there when you need them. Like when Vikram backed up to fight the Nigerian goondas. Or when Didier stood by in Zhou’s palace.And they have their own distinct personality. I like Vikram for his craziness, never say die attitude. And didier is the ever so take-it-easy guy and held back attitude and wit. Didier also persisted and went out to find who fixed Lin up while others like Karla hid things from him. Modena – only one reason – he was crazy and optimist enough to believe Ulla would return.
Karla – After all she did, one still likes her at the end. No, it is not because she had reasons behind her every actions (I don’t buy it). It is because of her emotionless and oppurtunistic behaviour. I wish I could be like that. I hate that because it is difficult for me. Or may be I have already started becoming one..I feel cold for many worldly pleasures. She reminded me of DilSe heroine in running away and thinking that fate has some plan for her and which stops her from loving others.

4)Lord Khader Khan should have had a better death.

But then, that is life, you will say 🙂

For all the stature he had, it was too silly a death.

I wonder if just by withdrawing to travel with Khader gave life to Greg..but on the other hand he thinks, he could have saved Khader’s because he looked American.
In any case, I knew in someway that his visit to Karla’s house (with kid) had more to do in story than just eye(?) raising matter talk of Lisa. His sneak look into Karla’s diary and noting the poem, just came around while speaking with Khader. That was decisive in story – either to death of Greg or otherwise. (Of course there was hundred other ways he could have known everything from anyone else, but the point is — he did not. And that he came to know from Khader himself which gave him all the points of bigger picture at once.)

5)Hilarious moments.
I cant recall all..but Bear hug gave me great laughter. As much the Didier’s pillion riding. And Greg’s horse hanging ride. Or dancing in front of it. There were lot of funny moments in presence of Prabhaker.

6)Trains
He stayed in and around Colaba, so he used taxi and missed out an important element without which it is difficult to define Bombay-local trains. However, he did travel once in second class to Sunder village and am glad he did. For, train is the one that connects to local, majority India. Largest employer in the world, Indian railways, also have a special budget for itself which is not so anywhere else. It was in train that Mohan Bhargav first felt the actual India in Swades. I love trains.
If trains are not seen and no journeys made, it is somewhat incomplete. He finds a profound truth in that journey that possibly explains for all the chalta hai attitude we ever face in India – necessity.

7)Films
I was reminded of Dil Se, Truman Show, Satya.
Dilse – bcoz of her running away and appearing at strange points. And many other small reasons. Truman show- how he was a puppet in others hands where others were all aware and he didn’t know anything and kept on thinking how he is such an integral part but ultimately he was just a rat in the lab. Satya – usual gangster wars etc.

8)His escapes from death.
There is no man I have heard of who escaped so many deaths. He could have been finished anytime. In jail, with abdullah, when his horse and other person dies, when he runs into war, when they attack sapna, just coz he withdrews to travel with Khader etc etc. He saw so many deaths around him too. But he lived onto tell us the story. When I had seen in films such stories where hero escapes everything but ppl around him die, I always felt it is only in films that such luck is on his side when it is always other than hero who should die bizzare death. Like the Godzilla running around thumping people in market and only our hero or heroine surviving. But this story silences me.

9)Fim…
No novel I have read, have I seen the film. Waiting for davinci/5pointsomeone etc. At some parts I feel this should be bollywood film for 2 reasons – one such good oppurtunity for songs – how else would you cover such descriptive narration or flashback ! Second for the length – if it is made into a 1and half hour, I feel it is gross injustice. When the silly kingkong was given 3 odd hours, this should be given good length.

10)There were many filmi/dramatic stuff. The one that topped all of them was the twin eununchs. Height! In the sick film of Ghazini I got frustrated when just before climax twin villian enters.
Many surprises too and liked most of them and some of them no-surprise as I had guessed.

11) Best part of the book when I consider it to be a novel from the writer is : Easy english yet it is rich. It is filled with good sentences that pauses one to think, but not to run to dictionary. Beautiful narration. Till just before end, the pace, detailing and dialogue were maintained consistently. Most chapters begun and ended well in monologues which was the best part of the book. Sometimes leading, sometimes misleading, looking back, questioning, reasoning, concluding in all ways monologues were handled in the best way possible. I wonder if it was not a true story, would it have been possible to come up with such good monologues. The ordinary events are elated to descriptive observation and narration, funny events elated to hilarious ones, emotions captured emotionally and cruelty and horror dealth with cold.

12)Finally questions…
—>End was little abrupt
It said he was captured in Germany in 90, and all this must have been over in 86 or so. What happened next. I expected him to become good person by the end of the book..was that suggested (he ends the book in hut). I wished he leaves everything and serves the slum once more as doctor. Or goes to village. But I did not get strong clues about it. Does he go with Abdullah (for his duty and owe to Nazeer) to Srilanka ? If yes what happened there ? Does he go with Karla to Varanasi ?
Importantly, he started the story with entry to Bombay…he should have continued to exit from Bombay…
—>Whom will he be with finally…is it Karla ? There is enough suggestion about that but not very clear. If yes, did he marry her ? Is she with him now ? Did she serve a prison and got back to him or she just went to varanasi ?
At one point he mentions about Lisa that his affection is growing and Karla too suggests (before he monologues that woman knows what she must not come to know) that “lisa and you , you and lisa…”
—-> There were many mentions about his pre-India life. Broken marriage, heroin addiction. I understand it was out of scope of this book, but he might have had some stories there too…why was his marriage broken etc.
(I hate it when someone gives a cursory information but not goes into detail – at least as much detail as they go otherwise normally. It is like – you just know this – that is enough for you!).
—-> If not pre-bombay, I am very curious about post Shantaram..what he did before getting captured, and how was life in prison – his drafts of 600 pages got burnt twice- and life after that. His becoming multimedia company owner etc. And his personal life. Is he with Karla ? 🙂 If not, why ?
—–> 86 is not very far behind. Even I guess he might have some clue about bombay blasts..even otherwise, he must know critical clues to the networks. Why cant police get info from him. Nexus of Bollywood with underworld is told clearly – am sure chandra mehta/vikram would be existing even today. With many clues it is easy to trace them too.
—>What happened to Abdullah and karla. I guess Khaled would have become some saint!
–> When does he truly reform ?

But the ending was lot better than I expected it to be. He tied almost all the loose ends. But still it was open ended…
He could have just said one sentence : I went to slum dwellers (which I now know that he did not)OR I went to varanasi OR I went to Srilanka (which I think he did after seeing in website). Forgot to add…apart from the story, it also helped my knowledge. I did not know anything about Afganistan (now I remember that ppl then said it was America which nurtured and strengthened Osama against Afganistan and he hit back later) or about black market or heroin in this much detail.

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After reading the novel and writing down my thoughts above, went browsing to find these details :

His site provides some details (It seems he has permanently relocated to Bombay). And saw SRK as Qasim..(just put a pic of his.)
In IMDB saw 2 girls are picked. Emily looks like Karla..the other is not good for lisa(if that is the choice!)

Looks like he came again to India after what was in book’s events. Look at other events:

Arrive in Germany, work as singer, establish rock band, receive recording contract

* Manhunt by European police, escape custody in Italy & Switzerland, escape to India

* Act in Bollywood movies & TV dramas, establish travel agency in Bombay

* Passport smuggling to Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, Nigeria, Zaire, Mauritius, etc.

* Break with Bombay mafia council, freelance drug smuggling missions to Europe

FROM 1990 to 2004
* Captured Frankfurt, 1990, imprisoned in Preungesheim prison with terrorists, 1990-91

* Teach myself to read & write German, win concessions, extradited to Australia, end 1991

* 2 years solitary confinement, 4 years mainstream prison in Australia, begin novel, 1991-97

* Develop philosophical and cosmoogical model, “Resolution Theory”

* Released from prison, begin novel 1997, end parole 2002

* Sell rights Shantaram, in USA (St. Martin’s Press) & UK (TimeWarner Books UK)

* Publish Australian edition of novel, Shantaram, August, 2003

* Tour Australia, New Zealand, Europe, UK, Ireland, Hong Kong during 2004

* Sell movie rights to Johnny Depp, Brad Grey, Graham King, Warner Brothers, October 2004

* Sell Italian Translation rights to Neri Pozza, October

And one more thing. He is supposed to be writing sequel to it which was supposed to be finished by end of 2005, only 9 sentences in his factfile makes it to 900 odd page novel !!

Other Links:
From Rediff Excerpt:

I posed some of the questions that had been buzzing like flies in my head ever since I read Shantaram.

Why did he choose to leave so many threads unresolved in the book; such as the issue of Madame Zhou? Whatever happened to her?

“I don’t want to spoil it for you,” said a smiling Roberts, and went on to explain how Shantaram was Book Two of a series of four books he plans to write.

Each book, he says, has an underlying theme. Shantaram dealt with the theme of exile, and book three — titled The Dark Side of the Mountain – will deal with moving from darkness to light.
**
As most of us know, he had to rewrite the manuscript twice over as prison guards destroyed it in attempts to ‘break’ him. He now wears a data storage device cleverly designed as a watch, which stores all that he’s ever written.

The Kala Ghoda
Prabhaker

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And finally leaving with you a dialogue (between Lin and Karla) I relish most from the book. uff there were just many other good ones. From next time I should keep a notebook next to me while reading a book. I already posted it earlier, but this post looks most unconventional anyways, so ending it in a similar way :

“That’s why I like you, you know.”

“I thought you did not believe in love.”

“What do you mean, love ?”

“I ..I thought thats what you were talking about.”

“No, I said that’s why I like you.” she said laughing and looking up at moon. “But I do believe in love, everyone believes in love.”

“I am not so sure. I think lot of people have stopped believing in love.”

“People haven’t stopped believing in love. They haven’t stopped wanting to be in love. They just don’t believe in a happy ending anymore. They still belive in love, falling in love but they know now that…that most romances almost never end as well as they begin.”

9 thoughts on “Shantaram

  1. Your take is not about the "novel" …what do you think if you consider it to be just a novel ?
    But I agree that my threshold for liking a novel should increase..for that I need to read more and be able to separate good from average…

  2. Before you go ahead and reveal the entire plot, please be so kind as to put up the following line first.

    "SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!!!!!!"

    Aaarrrgghhh! Hopefully, I didnt get spoiled too much.. 😉

  3. RK, wonderful bits of thoughts — believe it or not, I had the same thoughts, same thought processes as I was reading the book.
    when reading your impressions, I said "me too", "same here", so many times that I lost count.
    Lots of things made me cry – but what made me laugh the hardest was Lin clinging on to the horse – I had to put down the book, hold my stomach and laugh 😉
    And thanks for the links – haven't gone thro them all – but I will.
    Great bits of writing – makes me wish I had done this too 😉

  4. Wow, thanQ for the compliment, my joy knows no bounds 🙂
    Yeah, that Prabhaker link is from Mumbai mirror, I tried hard to search for it when I commented over your blog. I didn't find.

  5. In terms of casting for Karla — well an Indian simply wont do..esp since Karla is Swiss-german ?? I think Lisa Ray (she would have to dye her hair black) would be perfect for the part and look really compatible with johnny depp. She can emote very well..if you have seen the movie "Water"

    My second choice would be Aishwarya Rai . im looking for the green eyed variety..

    or some firangi girl.

    Didier – I think Naseeruddin would look too serious for the role as Didier's character is rather humourous and affable. An italian actor! should do the job. An indian — well anupam kher i think would be good?

  6. SPOILER AHEAD

    HEY GUYS
    i love shantaram
    i just got a question
    at the end,
    when Lin is in the slum, and he meets his friend from jail.
    and the friend from jail tells lin, that he is going to join sapna and kill the other maifa dons.
    the friend tells him that, sapna has already killed abdul ghani, and they will kill the others.
    so what does that mean? so is nazeer incharge of the new sapna killings?
    was Lin lied to?
    is there a new sapna?