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26 July 2020 22:41

Vikram Seth’s novel A Suitable Boy is set in the newly-independent, post-partition India.

a suitable boy

A Suitable Boy has finally made its way from page to screen (Picture: BBC) Sunday night drama fans are in for a treat tonight as BBC One's adaptation of Vikram Seth's 90s best-seller A Suitable Boy comes to the screen. The weighty tome is one of the longest single-volume books ever published in the English language, but here it's being condensed into six weeks as the adaptation weaves the story of student Lara Mehra, who wants to make her own way in the world even as her family try to arrange a marriage for her. We can't wait to see how it translates to the screen – this being the first time it's ever been adapted – but just who is in the cast of the drama? Who is in the cast of A Suitable Boy? The cast of the adaptation is led by actress Tanya Maniktala as Lata Mehra.

a suitable boy

A relative newcomer, the 23-year-old, a former student at the University of Delhi, only has one other show to her credit, having appeared in Indian web TV series Flames. Meanwhile, Mrs Rupa Mehra is played by Mahira Kakkar, whose previous credits include the likes of The Blacklist, Orange Is The New Black, Friends From College, Blue Bloods and Law and Order: Criminal Intent. Look out for stars including Tabu and Ishaan Khatter (Picture: BBC) They're joined by another newcomer, Danesh Ravzi, who plays Kabir Durrani – a fellow student who turns Lata's head. Tanya Maniktala and Mahira Kakkar play mother and daughter (Picture: BBC) Other cast members include Bollywood legend Tabu – real name Tabassam Fatima Hashmi – as Saeeda Bai, as well as fellow Bollywood stars Ishaan Khatter and Rasia Dugal, and Indian film and TV actor Ram Kapoor. Close on the tail of The Luminaries comes another six-part, Sunday night adaptation of a Big Novel.

a suitable boy

At more than 1300 pages, A Suitable Boy (BBC One), Vikram Seth's 1993 epic of forbidden love, is one of the longest single-volume novels ever published in English. On paper, A Suitable Boy is more promising. The director, Mira Nair, who has apparently wanted to film the book since its release, has assembled an almost exclusively Indian cast and crew. For all its good intentions, this is still an orange-filtered fantasy version of India, where the characters speak English with the same mannered Indian accents and nobody can do anything without a sitar twanging. With one daughter paired off, the bride's widowed mother, Rupa (Mahira Kakkar), a clucking Mrs Bennett type, immediately turns her attention to her younger daughter, Lata (newcomer Tanya Maniktala), a 19-year-old university student who prefers arguing about Joyce to planning her own family.

a suitable boy

"I don't think I ever want to get married," says Lata, to the horror of Rupa, who wastes no time in enlisting the rest of the family to pair off this maverick. "You must help me to find a suitable boy for her," she says, and we're up and running. It's clear that Rupa and Lata's ideas of suitability will diverge, and it's not long before the younger woman meets Kabir Durrani (Danesh Razvi), a fellow student who approaches her in the library. The love affairs take place against the backdrop of simmering Hindu-Muslim tensions, four years after partition. Where The Luminaries was gloomy and difficult to follow, A Suitable Boy is bright and comprehensible, thanks to Davies' well trained eye for structure and Nair's unobtrusive direction.

As an alternative feat of endurance you can read A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth's house brick of a novel. Now A Suitable Boy (BBC One) is a TV series, condensed into six episodes. There have been grumbles that the screenwriter is Andrew Davies, a white Welshman entrusted with the story of post-Independence India. But Davies was Seth's choice, and this is hardly a whitewashed production: the cast is Indian and the director is the great Mira Nair (the woman behind the joyous 2001 film Monsoon Wedding). BBC One's A Suitable Boy, based on Vikram Seth's bestseller of the same name, follows a young woman coming of age in 1950s North India. The story of Lata Mehra (played by Tanya Maniktala) as she finds love and gains new independence is set against the backdrop of post-partition India, as the country prepares for its first independent election after India gained its independence on 15th August, 1947. What was the Indian Partition, and how does it influence the events of Seth's book? Vikram Seth's novel A Suitable Boy is set in the newly-independent, post-partition India. The Partition of Indian occurred in 1947, when the British left India after ruling for three hundreds years, and the subcontinent was separated into two independent nation states: India and Pakistan. India was Hindu-majority, while Pakistan was Muslim-majority, resulting in mass migration as people attempted to cross the border in both directions. In an interview with RadioTimes.com and other press, Indian actress Tanya Maniktala (who plays Lata in the TV adaptation), described the harrowing journey her own family faced during the partition. "I am from a Hindu family, and my grandfather's older brother – while they were crossing the partition – one of the Muslims caught them and they wanted to check if they were Muslim or not, and that means they have to like, they were willing to – and my grandfather obviously refused to show them proof of whether they were Muslim," she said, "and according to what my grandfather tells me, they had knives out, they had all these sticks… and another Muslim guy intervened and told them, 'Oh they're from my family' – and that's how they got them through the partition." Does A Suitable Boy address the partition? A Suitable Boy is set in 1951 after the partition, as the newly-independent India prepares for the first general election. The religious tensions and divide that were exacerbated by the partition are highlighted in the book, especially during Lata's romance with Kabir Durrani. Lata, the book's protagonist, falls for a fellow university student, but is heartbroken when she learns his surname and realises that he is Muslim, knowing that her Hindu family would never agree to her marrying a Muslim.