A Bollywood leading man, an Indian screen legend and a rising star will front the cast of the BBC’s ambitious adaptation of A Suitable Boy, it has been announced.
Newcomer Tanya Maniktala will play Lata, a spirited university student who goes on a journey of self-discovery in 1950’s India as the country carves out its own discovery as an independent nation free from British rule, in the screen version of Vikram Seth’s epic.
Elsewhere, Ishaan Khatter (best known for his roles in Bollywood films Beyond the Clouds and Dhadak) plays Maan, who embraces a more hedonistic life than his politician father cares for. His relationship with courtesan Saaeda Bai (played by critically acclaimed actor Tabu) causes deeper friction in the family.
The six-part BBC 1 drama will be directed by Oscar and BAFTA-nominated director Mira Nair, whose credits include Monsoon Wedding and The Namesake, and adapted by Andrew Davies – who is best known for the recent non-musical adaptions of Les Miserables, Pride and Prejudice and War and Peace.
Speaking about the new project, Davies said “I am truly thrilled to be chosen by Vikram Seth to adapt his masterpiece A Suitable Boy for the screen. It’s a charming, almost Austenesque story, with a delightfully relatable heroine, set against the turbulent background of India in the years following Partition.
“It has been a total joy to work on, and I hope that audiences will love it as much as I do.
Nair added, “Vikram tells the story of a free India and our people with wit, clarity and love – I am deeply honoured to be the one bringing this intimate, epic tale of an unseen India to the world. Today, A Suitable Boy is timelier than ever.
“With a mix of legendary and cutting-edge actors from the subcontinent, shooting entirely on location in palaces, villages and streets across northern India, we will keep the history and dream of an alternate India alive.”
At nearly 600,000 words and 1,394 pages, A Suitable Boy is one of the longest novels in the English language – with author Seth admitting he initially had anxiety about the project, which was green-lit by the BBC in 2017.
“With Andrew adapting and Mira directing, I feel that my story is in safe yet inspiring hands,” he said. “We all passionately believed that the series should be filmed in India with an Indian cast, and we have got great locations and wonderful actors. I am confident they will bring my characters brilliantly to life – and I hope they have a really good time doing so.”
“We are truly honoured that the first ever screen adaptation of Vikram’s iconic novel will be on BBC 1,” said BBC Executive Producer Mona Qureshi.
“To have such remarkable talent involved in the show – an incredible all-Asian cast, the esteemed Andrew Davies and the wonderful Mira Nair – makes it very special. Production in India is about to start and we couldn’t be more excited.”
A Suitable Boy will broadcast on BBC 1