Shantaram – Season 1 Episode 1 “The Three Nos” Recap & Review

The Three Nos

Escape or die: Dale had these choices before the start of his crazy adventures that saw him getting locked up across three different continents. In 1982, Dale is locked up in Pentridge Prison, Australia. He is scared of Barnes, a fellow inmate he had a run-in with before. He almost killed him the last time.

Dale’s cell “not” mates think he is a snitch and are plotting his death. The conflicted prisoner decides this is the right time to escape and takes his friend with him too. But they only have a shy under forty minutes to make it out. The next count is due at 1. The escape goes smoothly, as the duo wriggles past the guards in an organized manner, through the air vents.

They hit trouble at the last step as the rudimentary hammer and plug won’t do the trick. And, it is almost 1. Dale refuses to go back and makes an impromptu plan. While the work group resumes their work after lunch, he will use the noise to use the chainsaw to cut through the heavy metal. It works but there is still an ocean of guards they have to get through. Dale uses a blind-spot and ties one end of the cable to the roof. His friend almost chickens out due to vertigo but Dale calms him. And just like that, the two escape from the prison  – through the front gate wall.

Dale goes to a college professor’s office. It turns out, he was actually studying to be a paramedic before going to jail. He rues his failures but came out to make it right. Dying in prison wouldn’t have been the right end. Guns, armed robberies, and heroine: that is what got Dale into this mess. As the professor gives him money to give him a chance, he reminds him to keep away from those three things.

He changes his identity to Lindsey Ford, a Kiwi national, and arrives in Bombay, India. Unlike Stewie from Family Guy, the “smell” of hope is what Dale senses first when he lands. He meets a well-meaning guide, Prabhu, when he looks for a place to stay. The man is charming and seems trusting. Dale gets a place to stay in the bustling Bombay of the 1980s, just below the huge film posters of Amitabh Bacchan’s newest. At night, he remembers how he was tortured by the police, both mentally and physically. He knows the person who killed Officer Flores, the police think.

Prabhu shows him around the city, taking him to various parts in small mohallas and redi walas. Dale is mesmerized by the colorful city. A mysterious lady in white saves Dale from being run over by a car. But she has to return to her friends. Something tells me they will be meeting again. And soon. He goes straight to Reynaldo’s Cafe, where she said she would be. Karla and her partner, Didier, take him under their wing. All sorts of deals went down at Reynaldo’s. Didier often brokered them for a commission. But they were all confirmed out on the pavements.

The police looked the other way. Reynaldo’s never saw any bloodshed and was on neutral ground. Didier points towards Rafiq, a book black marketeer, and asks Lindsey to stay away. Lisa (a prostitute), Vikram (a Bollywood stuntman), and Kavita (a journalist) were the other members of Karla’s group. He charms them, barring Lisa’s pimps. Lindsey wants to make a fresh start in the city and mindfully keeps to himself. Karla and Lindsey share an enlightening walk together. She is definitely more than what meets the eye. They flirt a bit too but it seems like a love story that will break hearts waiting to happen.

Dale inadvertently finds himself as part of a police chase, after cops find him roaming around past curfew. The next morning, he informs Prabhu that he is leaving Bombay. Prabhu suggests taking Dale to his own village to see the “real India”. Karla visits Lindsey and asks for his help. Lisa has gotten herself into big trouble. She agreed to work for The Palace, a brothel on Maurizio’s behest. But now Madam Sue, who owns the place, has held her hostage. Karla needs Lindsey’s help to break Lisa free.

Karla wants Lindsey to impersonate an American lawyer to make it happen. He is reluctant but ruminates Karla’s worse about “being who he is”. Prabhu and he are about to leave to collect train tickets to his village but a man overdoses in nearby quarters. Prabhu escorts him out so that the police don’t think they’re involved. Dale agrees to impersonate the attorney. He plays his part well but Sue warns him that Karla will never love him. She thinks he is who he says he is but that he doing this because of Karla.

She mentions Ahmed and Christina and something along the lines that “they will never be back”. Dale insists on violent action against Sue if she doesn’t comply and in the end, she does. Lisa is out and Karla asks for a name. “Rujul”, is what Lisa says, as Karla rewards her with a drug dose. It is a bitter parting between the two, as Dale learns the ugly truth about Karla’s ways. Dale is robbed on the way by thugs in an alley. They run when the police arrive at the scene. Zhou seems to be the one behind it. In a voiceover, he explains how he could never have imagined the ripples from that night would change the future of everyone associated with him in the city.

The Episode Review

As an Indian, watching the Bombay of the 1980s was a sheer joy. Quite certain to report that the depiction and recreation of the colorful city is authentic as can be.

The huge film posters, almost claustrophobic mohallas are typically reminiscent of the city. Despite the one hour runtime, episode 1 felt never ending. It is the kind of sample you see creators make to give producers a whiff of what you will get. The choice certainly isn’t bad but maybe a bit tedious.

Overall, it will take some getting used to the plot and characters. The book itself was a layered jungle of politics, crime, and heartbreaks, and the show would aim to live up to that billing.

Next Episode

You can read our full season review for Shantaram here!


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