A Suitable Boy

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Tanya Maniktala in A Suitable Boy.
Tanya Maniktala in A Suitable Boy.
Photo: Taha Ahmad/Netflix


4/5 Stars


In 1951 and newly independent India, passionate literature student Lata Mehra is torn between family duty and the promise of romance as three very different men try to win her heart. Based on the novel by Vikram Seth.


A Suitable Boy is set in the fictional town of Brahmpur and follows Lata Mehra as her mom sets out to find her, you guessed it, a suitable boy. Her mom is every bit as pushy and annoying as an Indian mom can be when wanting to marry off her daughter. (Believe it or not, this mom still exists in 2020 and pandemic or not, Indian moms are on the prowl). Things become challenging for Lata (Tanya Maniktala), a literature student who's ruled out marriage completely until she meets three eligible bachelors.

Maan Kapoor (Ishaan Khattar) is a friend whose brother married into the Mehra family. He is less focussed on his academic future, or any future, really, and becomes completely infatuated with Saeeda Bai (Tabu), a singer. Saeeda is a courtesan though, and their relationship soon threatens his father's political career.

His father is focussed on running in India's first election. Set only a few years after independence from British colonial rule, tensions are high in India – and Hindus and Muslims are in conflict with one another, which affects the lives of the many characters.

For one, Lata, who is Hindu, falls quickly for Kabir (Danesh Razvi), who is Muslim. Maan finds himself in a similar situation, though he seems to care a lot less. But even his friendship with Firoz (Shubham Saraf) – which is certainly the most endearing relationship in the series – is tested as wars break out in the country on religious holidays, and with the Raj wanting to put up a temple next to the mosque.

There's a lot of political and social commentary in the show, but I appreciated the fact that, even so, and although there were many villains in the series, neither religion was ridiculed or disrespected. It was even good to see that the idea of an arranged marriage wasn't seen as something dated that couldn't work.

I fell in love with all the characters and their stories – and there was a lot of story to tell.

There were so many characters and a lot going on, and I often felt like it was a bit too much with particular events in the plot almost completely unnecessary.

Although each episode was an hour long, there were only six episodes, so some storylines were dragged out, and the final two episodes and resolution felt rushed. But for me, that didn't detract too much from the success of the show.

Considering all the themes that the storylines presented – the power of friendship, colonialism, the past and how it can impact the next generation, and the very many forms of love, even uncomplicated, calm love that Shakespeare and the greats rarely wrote about – I was glued to my screen and desperately wanted everyone to have a happy ending. And I was satisfied, reassured and comforted by the ending – something I feel is important when you've invested so much time in a show.

You'll be transported to India with the costume design and beautiful sets. Most of the series was shot in Lucknow, with an all-Indian cast. But I agree that the BBC's attempt to cater to a Western audience, by having the characters predominantly speak English, resulted in a loss of authenticity. The News Minute broke it down nicely when it said: "If only it had been in a suitable language."

That said, the actors certainly did justice to their respective stories, with Tanya Maniktala's tender portrayal of a defiant, yet endearing, Lata and Ishaan Khattar standing out as Maan in so many powerful scenes, from the one in which he stumbles home drunk to another in which he rescues Firoz. Again, while the series was focused on the romantic relationships of the characters, I was really only rooting for Maan and Firoz.

When I started A Suitable Boy, I was immediately taken by how beautifully it was shot. After the first episode, I was hooked and wanted to know more about all the storylines and conflicts.

And by the end of the six-episode miniseries, I was balling my eyes out watching Lata grow and seeing Maan's story come full circle. So, although the episodes were long, each one was like watching a beautifully filmed movie teaching lessons of love, friendship and freedom – and that made it well worth getting swept away and caught up in the lives of the people of Brahmpur.



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