Ishaan Khatter and Tanya Maniktala talk about ‘A Suitable Boy’

They give us peek into the behind the scene activities of this Netflix series and say that ‘there is nothing like a cell phone to snap you out of character’

After playing Madhukar in the tale of star-crossed lovers, Dhadak (2018), Ishaan Khatter is again in love with the wrong woman in Mira Nair’s adaptation of A Suitable Boy. Ishaan plays Maan, a spoilt young man, who falls in love with a courtesan, Saeeda Bai, played by Tabu. The 24-year-old actor marvels at the level of detail required in a period drama. “I remember the conversations about which cycle is more time appropriate,” Ishaan says over a video call. “The best thing about acting in a period drama is being allowed a gateway into a time when I did not exist. The worst thing is having a cell phone on set. It immediately snaps you out of character!”

Tanya Maniktala, who plays Lata, the girl who is courted by three unsuitable boys, agrees. The clothes also were a big plus for Tanya. “Every day I would be wondering what I was going to wear,” the 23-year-old says. The wig Lata wore created some problems for Tanya. “That was excruciating as the extensions were clipped on to my scalp.”

The language in the show, Ishaan said was very specific. “If we let an ‘okay’ slip, Mira-di would holler, ‘Okay’ is not a thing, it is should be ‘alright’!’ She would change from absolutely enjoying the take to being appalled in a jiffy if we said okay or a blah blah…”

“Like Ishaan said, you had to be very mindful of your speech,” Tanya agrees. “I tend to mumble a lot. I had a wonderful diction coach. In that period, the words were clearly enunciated. There was clarity, a lot of thought went into what was said. There was a teherav (stillness) then unlike now.”

Talking about his character, Ishaan says, “Fleshing out the character was a collaboration between Mira-di and us. We had multiple readings. It was a satisfying experience to work on Maan. Mira-di is gracious and giving. Once she was set on me for the part, she let me have him. She viewed Maan in a certain way and she was very clear about it. But she enjoyed the interplay and what we would create everyday on set.”

Ishaan says a lot of his character came from relationships with the co-actors. “Mira-di has the knack of bringing people together. It is one of the most wonderful gifts she has a film maker and a leader. She brings not only actors but the entire team together to create a certain energy, a synergy and the character is a result of all of that.

Tanya chimes in saying, “Having a director like Mira-di is great. It is an honour to be working with her. She lets you have fun, she lets you play with the character. She also knows what she wants and she makes sure that she gets it out of you. Sometimes you don’t realise the potential that a scene might have, but she would add the extra dimension and an extra layer to it. And everything becomes crystal clear and you wonder ‘Oh, how could I not have seen that?’”

A Suitable Boy is streaming on Netflix from October 23


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