Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Antonia Desplat, Shubham Saraf, Sujaya Dasgupta, Alexander Siddig, Fayzzal Bazzi, Alyy Khan, Elektra Kilbey, Rachel Kamath
Directors: Justin Kurzel, Bharat Nalluri, Iain B. MacDonald
This Apple TV series based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Gregory David Roberts comes perfectly packaged, with an action man hero and a worldwide ensemble cast set in a semi-fictional India.
Lin Ford (Hunnam) is on the run from more than just the prison cell he has broken free from when he arrives in Mumbai, or Bombay as it was then, on a fake New Zealand passport. That he is in desperate search of redemption and forgiveness becomes clear in some very harrowing flashbacks and nightmares.
His chance meeting with Prabhu (Saraf), the local guide-cum-fixer who almost bamboozles himself into “Lin Baba’s” life, proves the start of a beautiful friendship that takes Lin into the very depths of the city’s slums and gets his life unexpectedly entwined with that of its residents.
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Keen to keep a low profile, Lin knows he must get out of Bombay soon but finds himself being held back by the charms of Karla (Desplat) – another migrant in the city just like him, but with much deeper and dubious connections with the seedy underbelly of the Bombay’s underworld. Drugs and shady under-hand dealings seem to be all around him and as a fugitive living under an assumed identity, Lin is desperate not to get drawn into the complications of the local don Khader Khan (Siddig). Just as he is all set to flee the city for Prabhu’s non-descript village, Karla comes to him with a life or death request.
Will Lin be able to resist the charms of Karla or will he get drawn into the underworld web with very little chance of escape?
This series cannot be faulted on its slickness, with each scene shot to perfection and creating the notion of being at the heart of the Bombay slums, even though the Covid-hit shoot was moved from India to Thailand.
What is misplaced, however, are the accents. Why more Indian actors, like the talented Alyy Khan who plays the slum chief Qasim Ali, were not recruited for some of the other key Indian roles is quite baffling.
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While the script stays fairly true to the novel, there are one too many gratuitous scenes thrown in for no good reason which only serve as distraction in an already meandering tale.
Ultimately, the audience is left with the uneasy feeling that the creators were desperate to recreate the Oscar magic of Danny Boyle’s ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ but fall well short on several counts. There is a certain depth and heart missing from this Bombay slum story.