Andrew Davies’ adaptation of A Suitable Boy is arriving on BBC One later this month, telling the story of four large families in North India during the early years of the nation’s independence.
The six-part drama, based on Vikram Seth’s classic novel, stars a variety of top Indian talent, including Life of Pi’s Tabu, who plays beautiful courtesan Saaeda Bai in the miniseries.
However, the award-winning Tabu was almost cast in a completely different role by the drama’s director Mira Nair.
Speaking to RadioTimes.com, Tabu revealed that Nair was considering her for the role of Mrs Rupa Mehra, the overbearing mother of protagonist Lata who is determined to find her daughter a suitable boy to marry.
“[Nair] said, ‘I’m doing A Suitable Boy and I’m going to come to you soon for it, you be ready in about two or three months. There are these two roles and you pick the role you want but what I really want you for is Saeeda Bai,'” Tabu said, explaining how she became involved in the drama.
“Initially she was thinking [about casting me in another role] but she was always very clear, she said, ‘I want you to play Saeeda Bai,'” she added.
When asked which other character she was being considered for, Tabu replied: “I think the mother. But I wanted to play Saeeda Bai and she said, ‘If you want to play Saeeda Bai, you do Saeeda Bai.”
In Seth’s 1993 novel, Saeeda Bai is a courtesan and musician who Maan Kapoor, the son of a respected politician, begins a controversial love affair with. In the BBC’s adaptation, Maan is played by Indian film actor Ishaan Khatter.
With Tabu cast as Saeeda Bai, actress Mahira Kakkar instead plays Rupa Mehra, who is determined to sort out an acceptable arranged marriage for her apathetic daughter Lata.