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.
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.”
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'.