There is no dearth of stereotypes in this adaptation of Vikram Seth’s 1993 novel, yet the show moves too briskly and looks too lovely to ignore
Both Lovecraft Country and A Suitable Boy are set in the ‘50s, in different yet similar spaces. All the accusations of inadvertent stereotyping in Lovecraft Country right down to the magical negro trope makes sense.
There is no dearth of stereotypes in Mira Nair’s adaptation of Vikram Seth’s 1993 doorstopper. From a stampede and communal riots to the courtesan with a heart of gold, the passionate lover to the rough-and-ready son of the soil who probably will get the girl in the end, the slimy politician to the feckless youth and the long-suffering mother, they all wander about the beautifully-appointed frames of the BBC show.
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Lata Mehra (Tanya Maniktala) is a 19-year-old literature student. It is 1951 in Brahmpur by the Ganges. At Lata’s sister, Savita’s (Rasika Dugal) wedding to Pran Kapoor (Gagan Dev Riar), her mother, Rupa (Mahira Kakkar), says she will look for a suitable boy for Lata as well. Seth’s 1349-page book, along with exploring suitable boys for Lata, also looked at the growing pains of a newly independent country.
A Suitable Boy
- Season: 1
- Episodes: 6
- Run time: 60 minutes
- Director: Mira Nair
- Starring: Tabu, Ishaan Khatter, Tanya Maniktala, Rasika Dugal, Ram Kapoor, Mahira Kakkar, Gagan Dev Riar, Vivek Gomber, Vivaan Shah, Shahana Goswami, Mikhail Sen, Namit Das, Danesh Razvi, Randeep Hooda, Ranvir Shorey, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Vinay Pathak
- Storyline: The public and the personal intertwine in this story of a newly independent country and its people
The script by Andrew Davies was for eight episodes. Nair whittled it down to six episodes and the narrative has not suffered for it. In an interview with this writer, Nair said she shifted the focus from merely being about who Lata would marry to also talking about the politics of the time. And so Mahesh Kapoor (Ram Kapoor), the Revenue Minister is trying to get the Zamindar Act passed, there is also the first election and with the trauma of Partition fresh in everyone’s minds, there is tension between Hindus and Muslims.
There is the courtesan, Saeeda Bai (Tabu), who Maan (Ishaan Khatter), Mahesh’s younger son is infatuated with. Like the book, A Suitable Boy is essential a story of four families — the Kapoors, the Mehras, the Nawab of Baitar and the sophisticated Chatterjees — Meenakshi (Shahana Goswami) is married to Lata’s stuffy older brother, Arun (Vivek Gomber), and Meenakshi’s brother, Amit (Mikhail Sen) is courting Lata).
Apart from Amit, Kabir Durrani (Danesh Razvi), who studies in Lata’s college, and Haresh Khanna (Namit Das) a self-made shoe salesman, are also in love with Lata.
The show moves briskly and looks lovely. The actors are uniformly good from statuesque Tabu to quick-silver Ishaan and dewdrop Tanya. Vinay Pathak as the horrid Home Ninister, Ranvir Shorey as Waris who stands against Mahesh in the election, Randeep Hooda as the suave Billy Irani and Vivaan Shah as Lata’s youngest brother Varun are absolutely first-class.
Yes, A Suitable Boy is predictable and there is the discomfort of the seeing these lives of privilege where Schubert and Shakespeare trip lightly off the tongue. It is however, a beautifully-shot and produced show with the period details brought to life in thrilling, lived-in detail. It would be downright curmudgeonly to turn away from such a tasty morsel in these days of starvation for happy tidings.
A Suitable Boy is currently streaming on Netflix