Justin Kurzel is set to direct the first two episodes of Shantaram, the TV adaptation of Gregory David Roberts’ Australian novel.

Published in 2003, the novel follows Lindsay, a bank robber and heroin addict who escapes from Melbourne’s Pentridge jail and flees to India, which mirrors the author’s experience.

Landing in Bombay, he is forced to live in the slums, which shelters him from the authorities. He sets up a free health clinic as a way to contribute to the community, learns about the local culture and customs and becomes fluent in Marathi, the local language.

He also witnesses and battles outbreaks of cholera and firestorms and becomes involved in trading with the lepers.

Apple has commissioned the series which will be produced by Anonymous Content’s Steve Golin and Nicole Clemens and Paramount Television.

The screenplay is by Eric Warren Singer, whose credits include American Hustle, The International, Only the Brave and Joseph Kosinski’s upcoming sequel Top Gun: Maverick, which stars Tom Cruise, Jennifer Connelly and Val Kilmer.

Shooting in India and Australia is due to start in late October. The project was originally set up as a feature film for Warner Bros when Johnny Depp had the rights and Joel Edgerton was attached as the lead. It is unclear whether Edgerton is still involved.

Anonymous Content and Paramount Television have also acquired the rights to Roberts’ follow-up novel The Mountain Shadow.

Kurzel’s True History of the Kelly Gang will have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival next month and will be released by Transmission Films next year.

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