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Meeting Gregory David Roberts (Shantaram)

Posted: Fri Aug 26, 2005 3:41 am
by Christabel
Well, seeing as you have discussed SHANTARAM here at the ONBC, I thought I'd give a little report on a function I went to today at which Greg was the guest speaker. In fact, I had to get my parents to pull a few strings (a lot, actually) to get me a ticket, considering it was a cooporate charity function.

Firstly, I just need to say that he is such an astounding, amazing, gentle, soulful, friendly, humble, insightful, eloquent, likeable guy. Physically, he's shorter than I imagined at about 5'10 (shorter than me, that is), but is very well built around the shoulders. Most noteably though, when he speaks directly to you, he has increadible eye contact - a lot of power behind the eyes (remind you of anyone?)

His speech lasted about an hour, maybe longer, but I could have listened to him all day. His theme was "Charity, Hope & Faith", but not in the religious sense at all - it was a truly Humanist reflection on his own personal life lessons. He told a number of hilarious, tragic, inspiring stories (a few that left most of the Suits in tears, I have to say). I won't retell them in this post, because otherwise you'll all be reading for the rest of the night. But if you'd like to hear a couple, I'd be more than happy to paraphrase them here.

Now to what you all want to know: the word of the day was, naturally, The Depp. At his first mention of Johnny, there was an audible SIGH from all the women in the audience, followed swiftly by a sweeping load of giggling.

Something that touched me: my stomach and my heart did a little backflip when I saw that he was wearing a set of Cptn Jack beads on his belt buckle :cloud9: Obviously I wasn't the only one who noticed, as the MC asked what was hanging from his trousers during her thank you and ... :cloud9: he told us something about Johnny that I never knew: after every film that he does, Johnny designs/organizes a memento from the film to be made so that he can give it as a gift to everyone involved in production, from the director to the guy who makes tea. Greg used the example from when he visited Johnny on the set of CatCF that he had had made 550 or so specially designed jackets with a heap of secret pockets inside them ("to hide chocolate, I presume") and gave one to everyone on set (and a few of his friends), including Burton. SO, the pirate beads that Greg had were a gift from Johnny after Greg noticed all of Johnny's posse wearing them: he gave Greg the last strand of Jack beads that he had left. (The MC, by this point, was holding them... and made a move to suggest she was going to nick off with some Johnny memorobilia. lol)

Later, I got to talk to Greg. The other woman standing with myself and him asked what Johnny was like (i didn't even have to ask! Thank god, I would have been too embarassed). he replied that Johnny was (paraphrasing) the most gentle, most intelligent, most immensely kind, talented and generous soul he had ever met, and that he was an increadible musician, but a very modest one. That he plays every instrument imaginable from piano to guitar.

He also said during his speech that he had written the 1st draft of the SHANTARAM script, but was now going to back away from the project, not wanting to interfere with what the Film people do best. So, the script is going to be tweaked by someone else. He also said that filming is due to start early 2006.

When I got to talk to him, we mostly talked about my studies (I think he was sick of talking about himself, so kept asking ME questions) but I did get a question in there. I asked what the significance of the bear was (remember, the one that he gets a hug from, and the one that's locked up, and disguised as Ganesha?) and whether or not that story was true. Well, it was partly true. The bear-hug and the bear getting locked up were actually 2 different bears in real life. The Ganesha thing didn't happen. However, it got interesting when he was explaining the significance of the bear. He got a real kick out of explaining that every important character and event in the novel has a mirror character or event. For example, the flood in the village mirrors the flood in Bombay (he gave an example of mirror characters/events for Prabu and Abdullah, too - but :blush: I can't remember them) - well, the bear is the mirror image of Lin. (Greg paused there, watching my little brain tick over into enlightenment with sneaky delight on his face). Every event that happens to the bear, is in fact a thematic reflection of what is happening to Lin. Poetic, no? Also, an interesting point: the bear being dressed as Ganesha and paraded around - Ganesha is the god of Writing and Creativity...

I also asked him to give a demonstration of the famous Indian head-wobble, which he did. LOL

I'm sure I'll be editing this post a million times as I think of important things that I've left out - but all in all, there was not one person in the room that wasn't touched by his story and his philosophy in some way. Greg is very verbose, a great storyteller. He could talk for days - and everyone would listen.

He signed my book:

May you always find happiness in love, and peace in all your friendships.
Yours, Greg David Roberts
August 2005, Sydney

(but the "Greg David Roberts" part looks a lot more like... how do I explain this... like a very intracate sketch of a walnut. When I laughed he explained that it was "a forger's signature", because he knows how easy it is to forge a signature. Trust me when I say his signatrue could never be forged! he has beautiful handwriting, too.)

Ok. Here's to anyone who actually makes it all the way through that post! I had a great day. Glad I could share it. :cloud9:

Posted: Fri Aug 26, 2005 3:58 am
by lizabel
Christabel - that was wonderful - I could have just kept reading and reading your report! Thank you SO much - I HAVE to read this book!!

Interesting how you describe Roberts - no wonder he and Johnny hit it off - they are kindred spirits by the sounds of it. That could well be the start of another wonderful friendship (akin to Tim B maybe) between the two of them. I loved reading how Johnny designs and gives momentos from his film:( reminds me to have a word with someone I know whose BIL was Produciton Manager on FN - wonder if he got anything?!) This generosity is not surprising of course, especially after reading under the '20 reasons to love Johnny' thread as said by Vanessa, that his obsession is his generosity.

If you have anything else to add about your encounter - please do post (or PM me!) - I would love to read it. And how lovely you got your book signed - a treasure to be sure and not even silver or gold.

Thanks again - great report! :cloud9: .

Posted: Fri Aug 26, 2005 3:59 am
by Liz
Christabel, there was no way I wasn't going to make it all the way through your post. Thank you so much for sharing. You are so very lucky that you were able to talk to him as much as you did. :bounce:

That was a very interesting tidbit about Johnny's momentos. :-O :cool:

It's funny you should post this today because today I was thinking about what questions I was going to ask you to ask him. But I thought I had more time. :-/ I would like to ask you, though, if he talked at all about Prabu or about Afghanistan.

Posted: Fri Aug 26, 2005 4:01 am
by Liz
lizabel wrote:If you have anything else to add about your encounter - please do post (or PM me!)

Definitely post anything that you remember. We will never tire of hearing about it.

Posted: Fri Aug 26, 2005 4:35 am
by jes
Thank you so much. I would love to hear more.

Posted: Fri Aug 26, 2005 5:01 am
by Christabel
He didn't mention anyting about Prabu or Afghanistan, sorry Liz. He did say that Karla's real name was Daniella and that the rockband that he fronted in Germany (!) were offered a record contract, but he obviously couldn't accept, what with being one of the world's most wanted men. lol.

Someone asked him how he finally got caught and sent to this prison in Germany: he would normally cut up his fake passports after using them once, but after such a long time he got lazy doing this and was using a British passport for the third time. He was sitting in first class chatting up a woman when a German guard came onto the plane, told him in German that he'd like to have a word, but Greg pretended not to understand, to which the Guard replied "perhaps you'll understand this", handcuffed him and dragged him off the plane. Greg added that the woman remained seated, looked a little stunned and said "Right... bye then."

A snippet of a story he told was about being in the Maximum security Terrorist prison in Germany, where 22 hours of the day was solitary confinement, and 2 hours was Monopoly. His description of a Terrorist game of Monopoly was hysterical - people holding others hostage if they didn't pay rent, staging rallys on Park Avenue, and winning only if you were the last one left alive. That prison was where his perspective on life and how he was living it did a U-turn, and it was where he served the rest of his 10 year sentence.

Also - his accent was still very Australian, a very academic Australian accent, but he often would slip into a fantastic Indian or American or British accent when telling his stories.

Posted: Fri Aug 26, 2005 5:53 am
by Endora
What a fascinating post! Thank you for sharing all of that! GDR seems to be just like the man in the book, which is a kind of relief, because you can never tell if an author will write themselves up as better, kinder, braver or whatever than they really are, or do the reverse. I loved the gifts to friends mentions about JD, and how there was a sigh around the room_ I can just imagine that!

Posted: Fri Aug 26, 2005 5:55 am
by Endora
Sorry, forgot to ask...was there anything about when the sequel can be expected?

Posted: Fri Aug 26, 2005 6:12 am
by Christabel
Endora wrote:Sorry, forgot to ask...was there anything about when the sequel can be expected?

nope! :banghead:

Posted: Fri Aug 26, 2005 6:20 am
by Endora
Christabel wrote:
Endora wrote:Sorry, forgot to ask...was there anything about when the sequel can be expected?

nope! :banghead:

A pity...there's a few here who'd be out there waiting at the bookshop the day it comes out!

Did he say anything about what became of any of the people from the slum ,particularly Johnny Cigar?

Posted: Fri Aug 26, 2005 6:23 am
by DarkAngel
Thanks for sharing, although I haven´t read the book yet (I wait for the german translation) it´s great to read more about the man who has written it.
Thanks for sharing! Great to hear what he has to say about Johnny! :cloud9: :cool:

Posted: Fri Aug 26, 2005 7:35 am
by ibbi 3
Thank you very very much for sharing Christabel , what an interesting man ! I loved reading it , and look forward to the movie - it's good to hear this one is gonna be started in 2006 so after the POTC sequels. :cool:

Posted: Fri Aug 26, 2005 8:07 am
by Gilbert's Girl
thank you Christabel, sounds like it was a very good evening and its very interesting about the gifts Johnny gives, I think I had heard about that before somewhere. Lucky him though to have been given his own bead dangle by Johnny.

Posted: Fri Aug 26, 2005 8:09 am
by KYwoman
:snoopydances: Thanks for sharing your story Christabel!! I've been looking forward to your report on this event. Very lucky of you to be able to snag those tix! I would also love to hear more of what you have to say about the event. He sounds like I imagined him. I'm glad he shared some tidbits about Johnny, too! I love that JD does the gifts for everyone. I was surprised about the 'mirror' character/events. Wow, never thought of it that way. Now I have to try and remember all those little details (loaned book out) and think about that. I would love for him to come to the states and do a speaking tour here. Whatever you'd want to share with us we would all appreciate it, I'm sure. Congrats on being able to go and speak with him personally. It was great too that he signed your book.

Posted: Fri Aug 26, 2005 8:22 am
by Veronica
:bawl: :bawl: Thank You thank You! You are so lucky to get to meet him. I tend to fall inlove with writters when I read their books & Greg was definately one of them that I fell head over heals for. I look forward to anymore details you may remember. If you can scan his autograph that would be Groovy Man! lol

Thanks again