Nothing unsuitable about Mira Nairs A Suitable Boy

Nothing unsuitable about Mira Nairs A Suitable Boy

A much-hyped screen adaptation of Indian author Vikram Seth's famous book 'A Suitable Boy' set in post-independence India has been creating waves worldwide with a diverse cast of over 100 actors from India and around the world.

Indian American filmmaker Mira Nair makes her television debut with the six-part BBC drama, which centres around?19-year-old university student Lata - portrayed by newcomer Tanya Maniktala - who struggles with her life being mapped out thanks to age-old traditions and an overbearing mother who wants to find her a'suitable husband.The elaborate cast and crew, made up of several Global Indian artists, based themselves in Uttar Pradesh in northern India for the duration of the shoot to capture the authenticity of the novel's milieu.

Levels of storytelling

Nair, the award-winning director of films such as 'Monsoon Wedding' and 'The Namesake', explains how one level of the story is the journey of Lata finding herself, her own voice, finding love and being loved. At the same time, India goes on its own journey towards its first national election in the 1950s.

She said: “'A Suitable Boy' is modern a classic about a time when a country is finding its feet after independence. It is a massive yet intimate saga; an extraordinary tale of love and friendship across class and certainly across religion.

“It has been one of my favourite novels since the day it was written. I read it repeatedly and felt as if it was my best friend. I felt a sense of great companionship and understanding and a sense of evoking a time in India in which I longed to have lived. I just vowed to direct the adaptation of it.”

Bollywood connect

The series has been adapted for the screen by Andrew Davies, known for his flair at adapting classics for the BBC such as 'Pride and Prejudice' and 'War and Peace', and comes with a?vast canvas of 113 actors - including Bollywood stars Tabu and Ishaan Khatter.

“What excited me about this role is that she lives in a world of her own, which does not merge with the outside world,” said Tabu, who plays the courtesan Saeeda Bai and has previously worked with Mira Nair on 'The Namesake'.

“Saeeda is a courtesan, musician and singer. She inhabits a very different world than the world of the other characters in the story. It has a life of itself. She is not directly involved in the main plot but is definitely connected to it,” she explains.

And, Khatter, who essays the role of impetuous Maan Kapoor, reflects on how the story is about the journey of newly independent India coming into its own, mirrored in the personal journey of the characters.

“The setting and the characters are very compelling. I think people all over the world will find it fascinating, especially people who are not privy to the lives of Indians, to discover the sights and sounds and how it was in that time period for them,” said Khatter, who made his Bollywood debut with 'Dhadak'.

Special memories

For Mumbai-based actor Namit Das, who plays the character of Haresh Khanna, it felt like it was “written in the universe, in time and space” that he would play that role ever since he read 'A Suitable Boy'.
Das said: “Life can be beautiful sometimes. The highlight for me was the preparation that went into this; I learnt how to make a shoe. Mira stressed on that.
“They actually sent me pants which were until my waist. And I used to sleep in them so that they don't look awkward on me. All of these are such special memories.”
He feels that comparisons with Seth's iconic book will not impact the BBC series, which is a celebration of all the characters created by the author — who backed the screen adaptation with inputs.
“Expect these characters to become part of your lives just the way they became your favourites when you read the book. Nothing 'unsuitable' in 'A Suitable Boy',” said Das.
The new series airs weekly on Sundays on the BBC and will be available around the world on Netflix.

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