By Samir Shukla
Director Mira Nair's adaptation of Vikram Seth's novel A Suitable Boy is a visual as well as literary feast. The novel, nearly 1400 pages, needs a longer treatment then a two-hour movie, so the six-part, six-hour series helps Nair flesh out the story in a manner that it deserves. Nothing is hurried as the characters are introduced and given time to show depth and flesh out emotions. Seth’s novel, one of the longest ever published in English, brings together several families in a post-partition India still struggling with fresh memories of violence and uprooting that followed partition in 1947. Nair deftly recreates the feel of early 1950’s India, during which time the story takes place.
Nair lets the characters mingle as if they are living out their lives through the novel. The casting is wonderful as each actor seems natural in his or her part. Nair creates the visuals and ethos of life in Northern India where the film tells the intricate woven tales of post-partition life, religious tensions, cultural divisions, and taboos of Hindu and Muslim relationships. Land reforms, patriarchy, political pandering, aftershocks of independence and the country getting ready for its first democratic general election all form a backdrop to the stories.
This drama features BBC’s first-ever all-Indian lead cast, including veteran actress Tabu, Ishaan Khatter and newcomer Tanya Maniktala as independent-minded lead character Lata Mehra.
Maniktala is especially intriguing as a wide-eyed dreamer who is a dutiful daughter but determined to follow her own path while she falls for a Muslim boy and then juggles suitors her mother and family members introduce to her. Tabu melts into her part as a singing courtesan who lives out her broken life with honor while seeking elusive romance. Khatter is a presence on the screen as the directionless young man from a prominent Hindu family who falls for Tabu’s character, who is also much older than him and a Muslim. There are many other tales, plot twists and colorful characters interconnected with the protagonists.
This period drama was filmed in northern India, including at locations in Lucknow and Maheshwar.
The series' score is composed by renowned sitar player Anoushka Shankar and Alex Heffes. Mira Nair's works include Salaam Bombay!, The Namesake, Monsoon Wedding, and Mississippi Masala.
The series will debut in the U.S. and Canada streaming on Acorn TV beginning on Monday, December 7, 2020. Details: http://signup.acorn.tv.