Apple to develop Mumbai-set novel Shantaram as TV series

Apple has landed the rights to adapt Gregory David Roberts’ best-selling novel Shantaram into a drama series.

Paramount Television and Anonymous content, which jointly acquired rights to the novel earlier this year, are on board to produce. Eric Warren Singer, who co-wrote American Hustle, will write the series and serve as executive producer alongside David Manson, Steve Golin, Nicole Clemens and Andrea Barron.

The semi-autobiographical novel follows Roberts, an Australian former convict and heroin addict, as he hides out in the slums of Mumbai.

Roberts claims to have become a slum doctor, endured a stint in Mumbai’s notorious Arthur Road prison and even smuggled weapons for Afghanistan’s Mujahedeen, although he later admitted that he had embellished some aspects of his life.

The novel was previously picked up for a feature film adaptation by Warner Bros, where it moved through several stars and directors, but never got made. At one point, Johnny Depp, who persuaded Warner Bros to pick up the novel, was attached to play Roberts and directors involved included Peter Weir and Mira Nair.

The book was published in 39 languages in 42 territories worldwide and sold more than 6 million copies.

Apple has said that it plans to spend $1bn on original content in 2018 and last year hired former Sony Pictures Television execs Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg to help develop its slate.

Apple’s upcoming drama series include an adaptation of science fiction writer Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, produced by Skydance Television; musically-themed comedy drama Little Voices, produced by J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot and Warner Bros; Swagger, based on the life of NBA star Kevin Durant, produced by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Television; a psychological thriller series produced by M. Night Shyamalan; and Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories, produced by Amblin Television.