The six-part series tells the story of spirited university student, Lata, coming of age in Northern part of India in 1951 at the same time as the country is carving out its own identity as an independent nation and is about to go to the polls for its first democratic general election
A Suitable Boy, based on the critically acclaimed best-selling book by Vikram Seth, was shot by Lookout Point Production for BBC One and later bought by Netflix. It will be first seen on BBC One on July 26 in the UK and available on Netflix globally except in the United States, Canada and China. A Suitable Boy will be available on Netflix in UK and Ireland 12 months after its release on BBC One.
It tells the story of spirited university student Lata (Tanya Maniktala) as she comes of age in North India in 1951, at the same time as the country is carving out its own identity as an independent nation and is about to go to the polls for its first democratic general election.
Lata, who is averse to marriage, must choose between several suitors put forward by her mother. Set in the fictional Indian city of Brahmpur, relationships play out against the raw backdrop of early ’50s India; newly partitioned, violently divided, with Muslims brutally separated from Hindus and Sikhs.
Intertwined is the tale of a condemned love affair between a politician’s son, Maan, played by Khatter, and a courtesan, Saeeda Bai, played by Tabu. A series of exquisitely filmed weddings frame the tale, but it’s no fluffy period piece. Set in the aftermath of the Raj, when the British have exited, it is a historical TV drama set in India and transports the viewer to ’50s India
A Suitable Boy is adapted by Les Misérables and War & Peace writer Andrew Davies and the director is Mira Nair, the Golden Globe-nominated Monsoon Wedding helmer. It stars Bollywood leading man Ishaan Khatter, Indian screen star Tabu and rising actress Tanya Maniktala in the central role of Lata.
Says Mira Nair, “I am really honoured and terribly excited to make Vikram Seth’s great novel, which I’ve loved since it was published — A Suitable Boy. I’m very excited to be director of all six hours of A Suitable Boy. And it’s with 110 Indian actors: It’s a great opportunity to tell the story of independent India. Portions of A Suitable Boy was shot in Uttar Pradesh, India.
She adds: “The casting is full of bounty and full of beauty. A Suitable Boy is an incredible canvas of very rich characters. Tabu plays Saeeda Bai, the courtesan based on Begum Akhtar. Randeep Hooda, my discovery from Monsoon Wedding, is this cool stud in Calcutta called Billy Irani. Shefali Shah, a wonderful actor, plays Roopa Mehra, the mother of the young woman, for whom she wants the suitable boy. Vivaan Shah plays this wastrel lout who turns good.”
Says Tabu, “Mira has the same energy that I had seen during The Namesake. I don’t think she has aged at all. Mira keeps collaborating with people whom she has worked with earlier. To be able to form such bonds in today’s world is a beautiful quality. She is like a rock who will never move. It’s always so wonderful reconnecting with Mira. Her quality of work is reassuring. You can submit yourself to her, knowing that she will create something magical.”
Damian Keogh, Managing Director of Lookout Point, said: “We’re hugely excited to be partnering with Netflix to bring A Suitable Boy to international audiences, hot on the heels of its UK debut on BBC One. This epic tale speaks of human truths of life, love and family amid a country in rapid transition – themes and experiences as relevant today as when they were written.”
Caroline Stone, Director of Independent Drama at BBC Studios said: “The demand for quality British drama is higher than ever globally so we are thrilled to be partnering with Netflix on this wonderful series to bring audiences around the world Vikram Seth’s literary classic reimagined with such colour and vigour. The talent on and off screen for A Suitable Boy are exceptional and have helped to make this a series of which we are very proud.”
Executive Producers are Andrew Davies, Mira Nair and Vikram Seth; Faith Penhale, Laura Lankester and Will Johnston for Lookout Point; Lydia Dean Pilcher and Aradhana Seth (who also produce); and Mona Qureshi and Ayela Butt for the BBC. BBC Studios distributes the series internationally.
Lookout Point, which is wholly owned by BBC Studios, is one of the UK’s leading producers of television drama, known for delivering highly authored series with scale, ambition, and global impact.
A SUITBALE BOY SNAPSHOT
1951. In a newly independent India, passionate literature student Lata Mehra (Tanya Maniktala) is looking towards her own future.
Her mother Rupa (Mahira Kakkar) has successfully arranged the marriage of her eldest daughter Savita (Rasika Dugal) to Pran Kapoor (Gagandeep Singh Riar), a university lecturer. Now Rupa has her sights set on her spirited younger daughter but Lata wants to make her own way in the world. She isn’t interested in romance but her resolve is challenged when she starts to fall for a mysterious fellow student, Kabir Durrani (Danesh Razvi).
Pran’s brother is the charming but directionless Maan Kapoor (Ishaan Khatter), who becomes bewitched by the singer and courtesan, Saeeda Bai (Tabu). Maan is a worry to his father, the progressive Revenue Minister Mahesh Kapoor (Ram Kapoor), who can’t let anything unbalance his political career at a crucial moment.
As religious tensions mount between Muslims and Hindus in the wake of Partition, India’s first national democratic election approaches.
Hailed as the best Indian movie of 2018, Andhadhun, an official adaption of the French short film The Piano Tuner, is an ingeniously entertaining plot that seamlessly alternates between romance and murder, comedy and crime, says Dr S Raghunath, Professor of Strategy, Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Bangalore, in an analyses of Sriram Raghavan-directed film starring Ayushman Khurana and Tabu
The gun shot on the cabbage field travels in the general direction of the intruder rabbit in the opening scene of the movie and is shown as inadvertently hitting a car towards the end of the film. Similarly, the man who is ostensibly blind comes to an apartment to play the piano in a birthday celebration of a spouse “by choice” and becomes the hounded victim of witnessing the scene of murder “by chance”.
Combining the concept and function of parallelism to not only form structural linkages between separate units of the movie but also to suggest meaningful relationships that bear on the film’s interpretation, writer-director Sriram Raghavan presents an ingeniously entertaining plot that seamlessly alternates between romance and murder, comedy and crime. The director and his team of scriptwriters use the ingredients of ambition and opportunism, fear and greed, creativity and intimidation to create a heady potion of entertainment. The tag line being – “What is Life? It depends on the liver”.
Cut to the initial scene of the protagonist playing on the piano with the tell tale cat appearing as it does in any murder thriller movie that gives an opening twist that anything might happen. The piano notes establish the atmosphere of the place where the action of the movie is set. The few melancholic, haunting notes rise to a crescendo. The piano notes building up or reflecting dramatic tension. Anticipation deliberately plays on the nerves of the audience as some unknown climax is anticipated, but the moment of release is unsure.
The initial part of the melody corresponds with the camera framing and slowly moving on to capture the protagonist’s intense gaze. The visual pace increases as the camera alternates shots between piano keys, the protagonist and the cat. In the climax of the introductory scene, the camera returns to the protagonist as he stops abruptly while playing the piano. He feels the dialpad on the watch with his fingers to figure out the time. We now realize the melodic piano hook identifies and embodies the protagonist’s character. A high level of tempo, ostinati and drone create tension and the short musical theme for the protagonist’s identity.
Director Sriram Raghavan, music director Amit Trivedi, background score composer Daniel B George and the editor Pooja LadhaSurti apply the precision of editing, in which the musical change aligns tightly with each visual change in emotional and situational content throughout the Andhadhun soundtrack.
The ‘dhun’ (melody) in the Andha (the blind) is captivating as the sound recording and design contribution of Madhu Apsara and Ajay Kumar and the background music of Daniel B George attend quite closely and innovatively to the movie’s sonic design in which the music itself captures not only the mood but also the visual image. The close synergy between sonic and visual pervades all through the movie.
The songs of Andha Dhun also serve as the unifier of both cinematic and narrative content. The musical and cinematic result of the collaboration of the director Sriram Raghavan with music director Amit Trivedi and lyricist Jaideep Sahni demonstrate the development of a narrative / musical aesthetic based on the space occupied by the song syntagms in the script. The songs in the sountrack illustrate the mood of the respective scenes. Rhythmic playfulness is encapsulated in the pace and beat reinforcing the nature of the protagonist’s character and the narrative moment in songs such as ‘naina da kyakasoor’, ‘aap se milkar…’, ‘Laila….laila’ and ‘wo ladki’.
Unlike most murder stories that withhold from the audience a piece of vital evidence until the end of the movie, Andhadhun reveals everything. There is no mystery. The chilling and thrilling moments are when the murderer and the accomplice want to decimate those who have the potential to provide vital evidence on the crime committed. The theme of evil against good, the innocent providing circumstantial evidence against the criminally motivated, provides the narrative drive.
Sriram Raghavan’s characters may exist among the gliteratti and the hoi polloi of society but they are smart and verbal, and get quickly to the point. There are a lot of scenes in the movie where characters come into the scene wanting to do one thing and leave doing something else. They are persuaded to change their mind by the seductive lure to find a short cut to a better life . As in many murder theme movies, the will to succeed translates into some kind of perversion to achieve one’s dream.
We meet a gallery of characters, all played in a laconic key. The lottery ticket seller lady, the auto driver, Dr Swami, Simi, police inspector Manohar all make plans which involve other people, but which are primarily intended to benefit themselves. The dark humor comes from problems stemming from the use of other people without the consideration of them as people with their own goals. Vishal the protagonist and Sophie do not exploit anyone and are mutually considerate and supportive of each other. Our desire to see them all get what they truly and fairly deserve keeps us engaged with the narrative.
By the time the movie ends, all the questions posed by the film’s opening and a few raised along the way are answered. We have complete closure. Everything that was disrupted reaches a new equilibrium. The disrupted lives of Pramod Sinha, Mrs D’Sa the auto driver and Simi end in death and Sophie is back with Vishal.
Dr S Raghunath also conducts The Strategic Management Course in Mdedia & Entertainment at IIM Bangalore for media professionbals