Vikram Seth’s 1,349 pages long novella “A Suitable Boy” (1993) is considered to be one of the most poignant tales in the Postcolonial and Postmodern Canon of Indian English Literature. Seth’s imagination gained power while traveling locally in the outskirts of the Indian subcontinent especially when he heard a Mother say –“You will marry the boy I choose for you” to her daughter during a mundane bus ride.
Just like the number of pages of his book, he stretched this one-line inspiration to weave a story about a girl called Lata and her quest of choosing ‘a suitable boy’ amongst the three candidates that faith and her acquaintances choose for her.
Each one of the three boys has a distinctive yet engaging character curve so much so that you end up finding glimpses of them in every young boy you meet. Nevertheless, Lata along with her love for Sarees and English Literature steals the show.
The Novel has been for the longest time, one of the favorites among Literary circles but it is at times considered to be inaccessible to many because of its gigantic size and canvas.
But, for anyone who doesn’t want to invest a month of reading time on it or doesn’t want to let their inability to consume large novels stop them from entering beautiful worlds, BBC has adapted this novel into a six-episode series.
The adaptation has been directed by the stellar Mira Nair and as someone who has binge-watched all the six episodes, I promise you it is worth your time and more.
The grandeur of the text has been seamlessly translated on screen and the first ‘All Indian’ cast members seem to have gulped down the essence of their characters with a glass of wine. Ishan Khatter, who plays the quintessential boy born with a silver spoon- Maan, and Tabu in the role of the beautiful, eloquent and enticing Sayyeda Bai have, in my opinion, added ‘char chand’ to the narrative.
As per public opinion, the first two episodes have a hard time holding the audience’s attention. According to my understanding, the initial context setting for the novel takes a lot more time than any other usual series, evidently because of its intersecting plot points and the huge number of ‘round and important’ characters.
But as the story gains momentum, it doesn’t remain just a story of a girl finding her way in life, it becomes larger and in a way propagates how personal becomes political, how society makes rules that suffocates its younger generations, and most importantly talks about the triumph of love and friendship in a scary and dark world. The novel holds a mirror to reality but at the same time teaches us to hope, dream, and desire.
While one half of the story teaches one to delve into tumultuous relationships, adventure, and life, the other one teaches one to be calm and peaceful and secure, as if the two distinctive personalities are needed for every country’s preservation. One foot on exploration and another on stability.
This story has all that an audience asks for and can be counted in the list of those to which one constantly goes back to seek solace and happiness.
So, if you are watching nothing but reruns of ‘The Office’ this weekend, I recommend six episodes of BBC’s ‘A Suitable Boy’, without a break.