QUICK REVIEW: A Suitable Boy, Netflix

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By Neeraj Nanda

MELBOURNE, 30 October 2020: Director Mira Nair should be lauded for squeezing Vikram Seth’s 1474 pages ‘A Suitable Boy’ into a six episodes (348 minutes) serial now streaming on Netflix. I read the novel many years back after accidentally locating it in a local council library. Later I bought a paperback published in 1994 by Phoenix from the flea market.

The Mehra family’s tale of finding a suitable boy for Lata (Tanya Maniktala) resonates in the episodes as the newly Independent India struggles in the dark shadows of partition and the ensuing first general election. Ishaan Khattar, Tabu, Ram Kapoor, Rasika Dugal, and Mahira Kakkar also star in the series.

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The hunts for a suitable groom for Lata is laced with an interfaith romance, traditions flouted in a conservative ethos, the thoughts that grip families, and the steeped Indianess that never even to this day has changed emerges whenever a romance is revealed. Love is, no dought, not easy in the Indian situation.

The series gives us insight into the city-based cultural ambiance of the British left and the rather unchanging middle-class (the early 50s) tantrums. The period drama reveals similar sounding stuff seen recently in Indian matchmaking. The charming affair between Maan Kapoor (Ishaan) and Saeeda Bai (Tabu), Lata’s affair (Hindu-Muslim) with Kabir (Danesh Razvi), the first election, Zamindari abolition, English literature, a cricket match, a communal riot, etc. weave a fascinating love story in Brahmpur (Kanpur in reality).

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Haresh (Namit Dass), the shoe factory man (he almost losses all hope despite the Christmas party) finally wins over Lata, emerges a suitable boy. Mira Nair’s A Suitable Boy has shades of contemporary socio-economic happenings in current India. The screenplay could have been tighter. At times the characters look cosmetic and acting icy but the power of the plot prevails. This is not Mira Nair’s best but a great effort that makes nostalgic watching and will boom the sales of the novel.

I feel guilty doing a Quick Review of a Marathon tale. The way out is to see the series. And, you might read the novel later. I give the series 2 and a half stars out of 5.

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Neeraj Nanda

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