BBC’s A Suitable Boy lead: ‘It was important to cast Indian actors, not British Indian’

The actor who plays Lata Mehra has said it was important to cast Indian actors, rather than British Indian.

A Suitable Boy

The lead actor in BBC One’s A Suitable Boy adaptation has stressed that the broadcaster made the right decision in casting Indian actors rather than British Indians.

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Tanya Maniktala, who plays the young protagonist Lata Mehra, has highlighted that many Indian actors grew up with family stories of the partition, making it part of their “identity”.

The series is an adaptation of Vikram Seth’s 1,349 page bestseller, and tells the story of how Lata gains personal independence against the backdrop of post-partition India in 1951.

Speaking to RadioTimes.com and other press, Maniktala was asked whether her family’s own experience of the partition had led her to believe it was important to cast Indian actors in the series, rather than British Indian actors.

She said: “I grew up with these stories of the partition, and I feel like many – almost the entire cast, most of whom are older than I am, they have grown up with these stories too, and they have witnessed their parents go through this, their grandparents go through all of that, so I feel like it’s a part of our identity, it’s a part of what we’ve grown up with, so we can’t really ever extract that from who we really are, and that adds so much reality to the characters because we all – we live in those characters every day.”

The actor, who is from a Hindu family, recounted how her grandfather’s older was threatened while trying to cross the partition.

“It’s scary to imagine what it would have been like, but yeah that’s the truth,” she said, before adding, “Humanity was lost at that time, it was not about religion. It was humanity that lost all faith.”

Maniktala’s comments follow online criticism about the BBC’s choice to employ television scribe Andrew Davies, a white Welshman, rather than an Indian screenwriter.

Speaking last year about Davies’ work on the TV series, Maniktala said, “The way he’s adapted the script from the novel, it’s amazing, you do not feel like that immense novel could be [confined] to six hours, but he does a brilliant job with it.”

A Suitable Boy will air on BBC One for UK and Irish viewers, and on Netflix internationally. 

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