Paramount Television Studios and Anonymous Content are getting ready to relocate the filming of ambitious Apple TV Plus series “Shantaram” to Thailand in July, Variety can reveal.
The 10-part series is based on Gregory David Roberts’ tome about a man on the run from prison in Australia, who flees to India in the hope of disappearing. There he builds a new life in the Mumbai underworld. Alexander Siddig recently joined the cast, opposite Charlie Hunnam.
The long-gestating series began shooting in Australia in early 2020 under Justin Kurzel, but was shut down due to incomplete scripts and a change in showrunner. At that time, it was envisaged that production would move to India after the mid-year monsoon season.
In hindsight, the coronavirus pandemic has been far more disruptive to “Shantaram” than was anticipated. Had it continued in Australia, production would likely have been caught up by COVID-19 lockdowns that affected the country in the early and middle parts of 2020.
Meanwhile, although the show shot in India for a brief period in late 2020, it was ultimately deemed “not practicable” under COVID conditions. The situation in India has since worsened with the country becoming the global epicenter of the disease. India is currently recording over 300,000 new coronavirus cases per day.
Unstable filming conditions thus required a new production destination for the shoot, and as such, Thailand will stand in for India.
Pre-production is now under way in both Melbourne, Australia and in Thailand, where the operations will be facilitated by Charles Salmon’s local production services firm Thai Occidental Production (“The Railway Man,” “The Darkest Hour”).
The plan is to restart some filming in Australia from this month, then shift to Thailand in approximately eight weeks’ time, before returning to Australia. India’s Bharat Nalluri (“Torchwood,” “Spooks” “Life on Mars”) is set to direct six episodes.
Thailand has a busy production services industry and varied geography. It has frequently been used as a stand-in for other places. It stood in for India in “Extraction”; for Vietnam in “Da 5 Bloods”; and for all Asian destinations along the route of Charles Sobhraj’s killing spree in the Netflix-BBC series “The Serpent.”
The country is currently struggling with a third wave of the coronavirus, a problem made worse by a vaccination campaign that has barely started. Capital city Bangkok and many provinces currently operate a near curfew.
Despite that, well-managed film and TV productions are able to function. Disney Plus series “Ms. Marvel” recently wrapped a two-unit shoot in studios near Bangkok, as revealed by Variety.
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