If future episodes are as verbose and unwieldy, it might be difficult to keep from switching channels, points out Deepa Gahlot.
When the book Shantaram came out in 2003, it became a bestseller and for a few years, the author Gregory David Roberts became a toast of Mumbai's Page 3 circuit.
The story, partly autobiographical and most self-aggrandising, was about Dale Conti, who escaped from an Australian prison and landed in Bombay (now Mumbai) on a fake passport under the name of Lindsey Ford.
Mumbai in the late 1980s was more squalid than it is today. Colaba (south Mumbai), where a large part is set, was a meeting point of criminals, junkies, fly-by-night operators and foreigners, supposedly looking for themselves, while Lin wants to 'lose' himself.
The journey from page to screen took a long time, with names like Russell Crowe, Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Amitabh Bachchan, Peter Weir and Mira Nair attached to it at various points in time.
For Indian viewers, it may just be a little late and déjà vu-inducing, since this cocktail of crime, drug trade, prostitution, wheeling-dealing crooks, corrupt cops, slumlords and Bollywood has been drained in hundreds of films, series and books.
It has finally landed as a 12-part Web series, with Charlie Hunnam playing the protagonist, who has an almost preternatural ability to get out of the trouble he gets into and wear the mantle of white saviour with insouciance.
The first three episodes (directed by Bharat Nalluri, others pick up the reins later) have dropped. The parts set in Mumbai (though not actually shot in India), and its criminal core that functions out of a sleazy Café Reynolds (standing in for Leopold), captures the beginnings of the change that the city has experienced over the years, in development as well as crime and corruption.
When he arrives in Bombay, a chatty, head-waggling caricature of a tour guide, Prabhu (Shubham Saraf) attaches himself to 'Linbaba', who is given the name of Shantaram by his mother (the episode in the village has not appeared yet, if at all is has been retained).
Lin moves into a seedy hotel and gets involved in the expat gang that meets and operates from Reynold's.
After his well-meaning intervention in the rescue of a drug-addicted American hooker, Lin is attacked and mugged, and ends up living in Prabhu's slum.
After an accidental fire, Lin is forced by the helpless poor 'not people' as Prabhu calls them, into becoming a doctor.
The 'Godfather' kind of Don, Kaderbhai (Alexander Siddig) soon makes an appearance, and exposed to his ruthless yet genteel world (there is a ghazal sequence), Lin starts to admire him and is taken under the older man's wing.
If the episodes and seasons that follow are faithful to the book, Lin's adventures get more fanciful, as he finds himself in Afghanistan fighting the Russians.
Obviously, every thread in this lengthy novel, filled with colourful characters and incredible plot twists, cannot be included in the series. Eric Warren Singer and Steve Lightfoot have done a valiant job but failed to curtail the hokey lines, in which Lin is constantly having life-altering epiphanies and everyone sounds like a guru sent to aid Lin in his redemption.
Charlie Hunnam is as earnest as he is hunky, embodying the writer's vanity, which suffused the book.
The other portions, where the shadowy characters circle each other to gain control of the real estate and sex and narcotics cartels, are too clichéd to be taken seriously.
The novel had come out before the spate of India and Bombay books, that rehashed the same formula of grime and crime for quite a while, and it did offer some guess-who kind of reading pleasure.
Going by the first three episodes, the slow-moving series works sporadically, sparking to life when the two bromances unfold on screen, Lin and Prabhu and later, Lin and Kaderbhai.
Memories of the novel and visuals of the tall, pony-tailed blonde man, who got himself a real-life princess have faded.
Still, curiosity will get the audiences interest just this far; if future episodes are as verbose and unwieldy, it might be difficult to keep from switching channels.
Shantaram streams on Apple+TV.