Shantaram shines with a street fight in Bombay's slums [Apple TV+ recap] | Cult of Mac

Shantaram shines with a street fight in Bombay’s slums [Apple TV+ recap]

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Shantaram recap Apple TV+: Just as in real life, everybody's flawed in Shantaram.★★★
Just as in real life, everybody's flawed in Shantaram.
Photo: Apple TV+

TV+ Review In this week’s edition of Apple TV+ limited series Shantaram, Lin recovers from cholera with Karla’s help, and she’s discovering she isn’t the moral person she’d been hoping she was deep down. Shah and Khan go to war over water, Prabhu gets a win, Ravi makes a chilling discovery, and Lisa and Modena have an ultimatum or two in front of them.

As the show enters its back half, Shantaram’s becoming a very agreeable place to hang — even with all the bad people hanging around.

Shantaram recap: ‘Like in the Time of Cholera’

Season 1, episode 9: In the episode, entitled “Like in the Time of Cholera,” Lindsay Ford (played by Charlie Hunnam) reminisces about a time before his misadventures in Bombay, when he was a student nurse working at the university where he studied (and when he was still using his real name, Dale). Lin ran across a student protester (Mavournee Hazel) who made it to his ambulance just before a demonstration turned violent.

Then, Lin wakes up for a moment and sees Karla (Antonia Desplat) in his shack in the Bombay slum. He caught cholera (which ravaged his community in last week’s episode of Shantaram), and she’s looking after him.

He survives the worst of it and tries to get Karla to admit that she cares about him more than she lets on. While they’re talking, he confesses that he started the fire that killed Ravi’s (Matthew Joseph) mother. Ravi overhears it, so their blood feud is back on.

Lin remains fearful that Kavita’s (Sujaya Dasgupta) story about him helping people in the slums will out him to the authorities and land him back in jail. That would take Lin away from his new home, and from Karla. He finally tells Karla that he loves her, but she rebuffs his overtures. She’s still hiding something big from him, and is in no mood to disclose whatever it is.

Romance and brothels

In happier romantic news, Prabhu (Shubham Saraf) gets the official go-ahead from Parvati’s (Rachel Kamath) family to court her. The trouble is, right when he’s going to make his first move, Ravi confronts him about Lin and the fire, so he has to talk to Lin about it. They see no easy way around this uncomfortable truth. It’s going to get out.

In less happy news, over at Madame Zhou’s (Gabrielle Scharnitzky) place, Minister Pandey’s (Alvin Maharaj) favorite sex worker, Sunita (Tharanya Tharan) — the woman he was seeing outside of his marriage — is trying to escape. She’s finally put it together that she hasn’t just been traded to another brothel, but is indeed a political prisoner who’s being used to bring Pandey and his handler, Walid Shah (Mel Odedra), to heel. Pandey has gone looking for her, despite how bad that’s going to look if anyone catches him trawling brothels for his girlfriend.

In retaliation for their maneuver, Shah decides to hijack the water shipments that Khader Khan (Alexander Siddig) has been giving to Lin and his people to stave off further infection. Lin, in voiceover as usual, admits that this is his fault. He made sure that these people would bear the brunt of this deal, one way or another.

Lin’s one dumb guy when he wants to be. How the hell did he not expect this, or worse, when he went to Khan for help with nothing to offer? Qasim Ali (Alyy Khan) is right there to say “I told you so” when Lin realizes his blunder.

Fresh water and suspect connections

Lin tries to get an explanation from Khan, but the best he gets is, “What did you think would happen?” Again … smartest guy in Bombay, our Lin. He recuses himself from further middleman duties between the gangster and the slums (good timing, considering this is all his fault).

So Lin brings Khan to kibitz with Ali. Ali hates Khan’s intimations that everyone needs his help, but he can’t deny that what he’s offering (buy the land the slum is on, hire everyone living there to help the construction crews that will develop it, and then re-house everyone when that’s over) is tempting.

Perhaps … too tempting. Still, we know what choice he made when the water delivery shows up the next day and Abullah arrives to help them fight Shah’s goons. Lin and his people beat them soundly and take the water. They’re on Khan’s side now.

Nobody’s hands are clean

Karla tries to speed things up by telling Sunita to call Pandey and tell him she’s fine and everything’s normal for now so he’ll stop looking and that Zhou and Khan won’t get the blame for having kidnapped her.

Sunita refuses. Karla and Zhou have a heart-to-heart and Karla has to admit she’s as dirty and dangerous as everyone else in her organization, and that there’s just no way to keep your hands clean. She agrees and hits Sunita harder than ever for her participation.

Modena (Elham Ehsas) finally gets paid for the night that his client spent having sex with Lisa Carter (Elektra Kilbey) and naturally makes a scene. She can’t talk him out of his anger and jealousy, even though it is 100% his fault that this happened. He refused to stand up for her when he had the chance to deny that she was still a sex worker.

Modena and Maurizio (Luke Pasqualino) find themselves further up a creek because after Abdullah (Fayssal Bazzi) told them to stop selling dope, they went ahead with this Lisa-based transaction anyway. That means they could already be in trouble. And furthermore, they don’t know how else to make a living.

Then they hit upon an idea: Sell the last of their dope and flee the city. Lisa hears this secondhand and asks Karla for guidance, and she agrees it’s the only wise thing to do. When Maurizio makes Modena choose between him or Lisa, he picks Lisa.

When good things happen to ‘bad’ people

All in all, this was a pretty satisfying episode of Shantaram — especially the endgame street fight that puts the slums back in charge of their fate (for an extremely short while anyway). The Lisa/Modena stuff is still no good, but the rest is pretty easy to watch.

I liked the final reveal that Abdullah noticed Ravi trying to hurt Lin in the tussle, and then talks him into doing right by Lin by promising a spot in Khan’s ranks when he’s old enough, This show is ultimately a look at the lies people tell themselves to put bad fortune and bad decision-making into some kind of less-hurtful context.

The people of Shantaram are all varying degrees of “bad,” however you want to define that, but they’re slowly trying to outmaneuver their own consciences by doing bad things a better way. Eventually, all these bargains will lead them back to their souls. Or anyway that’s what everyone’s hoping for. That’s compelling enough that I don’t mind when the show occasionally goes slack.

★★★

Watch Shantaram on Apple TV+

New episodes of Shantaram arrive on Apple TV+ every Friday.

Rated: TV-MA

Watch on: Apple TV+

Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.