Mira Nair’s A Suitable Boy, first-ever series by BBC Studios with no major European characters.
Based on Vikram seth’s novel, A Suitable boy, which holds the significance of being one of the longest english novel ever published of about 1500 pages, the series is about a mother’s quest fora suitable boy for her daughter to get married primarily and other’s events running along including the India-Pakistan separation saga and it’s after effects. The plot revolves around 1951-52 era in and around the fictional city of Brahmpur, Calcutta, Delhi and Lucknow.
Major characters are Lata, a 19 year old student of english literature played by Tanya Maniktala and the youngest son of the then revenue minister, Maan kapoor, played by Ishan khatter. Both have their early brushes with the feelings of love in ways and situations as unusual as possible where tanya’s Lata falls for a Muslim batchmate from the University, Kabir Durrani, in an atmosphere most unsuited for Hindu-Muslim interfaith relationship. On contrary to that Maan appears to be in love at first sight with a courtesan Saeeda Begum.
Revolving around their lives and stories, there are other characters like lata’s mother Rupa, his elder brother with her not so idealistic wife and a black sheep younger brother. Lata’s sister is married to Maan’s elder brother. Lata is also seen questioning the basis and practice of arranged marriages then which is very much valid even till date. Ram Kapoor blends well with the Maan’s father’s character fighting for what is right as a politician and standing upto to issues.
There plot is very apppreciable the credit for which goes entirely to vikram seth and it touches upon very serious parts and parcel of the idea of our society then many of which are unaltered yet. From the dramatisation of Hindu-Muslim scenario, the partition and orthodox beleifs, mentality and practices, this series had it all to make big, but sadly it did not leave much impact. As per my interpretation, the resposnsibility for this shortcoming totaly lies somewhere in the thought of making the series for an international audience which totally went wrong.
The characters doning indian attires following tranditions and cultures and then speaking in a foreign accent was quite difficult to digest. I kept switching between the audio language preference in order feel comfortable about the what i hear and what i see. I would say attempting the english language as first preference was an inappropriate choice and then dubbing it in hindi makes it look even pathetic beacuse expressions, reactions and everything is in accordance with the former.
The continuous playing of the traditional music at the background every now and then is absurd and kind of irritating. There were certain angles like that between Firoz and Maan were left unexplored completely and only touched slightly making it even more confusing. Also, the series is painfully slow.
Ishaan khatter’s Maan Kapoor has a childlike innocence and the typical youngster’s hot blood with a lot of naivety. Maan appears to be unpredictable, tempestuous and flat-out foolish. This makes him more fascinating and it appears to be very similar to the original idea of the character. Tanya’s Lata is an absolute idol of simplicity and beauty with brains and her vivid ideas and magnificent smile compensates for the lack of
Rasika Dugal, Vijay Varma, Vijay Raaz, Ram Kapoor, Shahana Goswami, Manoj Pahwa, all these are big names known for their exquisite acting skills and they do their parts quite well enough indiviadually.
Star cast is huge as well as commendable yet the actors seem to appear to be struggling to express their real emotions with the language and medium of the dialogues. The attire, the emotions and the dialogues don’t blend in well together. Great actors bound by the dialogues and the medium couldn’t bring absolute justice to the characters which they could have.
Saeeda bai is undoubtedly one of the best played character, Tabu even makes it easier to take the english from a courtesan who was put to work at the age of 15. She sets the character played by her apart from the rest. She manages to outshine and make a mark for herself despite innumerous flaws in the series.
Meenakshi (Shahana Goswami) was there only actor and character who seemed to be well suited for everything the series had, her accent, her dialogues, her confidence. Promiscuous and borderline and as the unapologetically hedonistic, vivacious Meenakshi. Lata’s sister-in-law who was vulgar but very genuine. Her flamboyance strikes a chord with the audience and her intimate scenes with Randeep Hooda have a breezy feel to it. Randeep Hooda did gel well but his appearance was very limited which might upset the audience.
I am pretty sure one would like the book better than the 6 hour series which failed to bring out the beauty and essence of the Vikram Seth’s book “A sutiable boy”.
The cinematography was splendid and it was major factor which helped me keep going with the six episodes each being an hour long.
Director: Mira Nair, Shimit Amin
Writer: Andrew Davies
Cast: Tanya Maniktala, Tabu, Ishaan Khatter, Mahira Kakkar, Rasika Dugal, Vijay Varma, Ram Kapoor
Cinematographer: Declan Quinn
Streaming on: Netflix