Meera Nair’s love story of A Suitable Boy transports culture after independence, class, culture in India

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The first episode of the new BBC television series “A Suitable Boy”, featuring predominantly Indian actors and set in a newly independent, post-Partition India, begins with a wedding, talks about the Orange Marriage and The violent ends with religious skirmishes.

Directed by award-winning Indian American filmmaker Meera Nair, the six-part minaret, adapted from Vikram Seth’s 1993 book of the same name, tells the coming tales of two young heroes set against the backdrop of a country . To follow his new independence after nearly two centuries under British rule.

Through the similarities between personal stories and politics, “A Suitable Boy” demonstrates and subverts many cultural stereotypes dealing with traditional cultural dynamics, religious intolerance, class differences, and interpersonal relationships.

“All my work has always been about showing who we really are and not to Western views of our culture,” Nair told NBC Asian America.

Nair, 67, is known for exploring South Asian families and society in his films, including “The Namesake,” “Mississippi Masala,” “Monsoon Wedding,” and “Salute Bombay!” Who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

“A Suitable Boy” was adapted for the screenplay by Andrew Davis. It aired on the BBC in the UK earlier this year and it will make its US debut on 7 December on Acorn TV.

The play was primarily set in the fictional Indian city of Brahmapur in 1951. Lata Mehra, played by Tanya Maniktala, is a 19-year-old English literature student at a university whose mother is trying to arrange her marriage.

Meanwhile, Rebel Man Kapoor, played by Ishaan Khattar, begins an affair with a large Muslim woman.

Ishaan Khattar as Maan, Tabu as Saeeda in ‘A Suitable Boy’.Taha Ahmed / Acorn TV

Nair said she was attracted to the political background of post-independence India as she prepared for her first national election as a democracy, and that Lata’s character was particularly embodied in the modernity and optimism of the time .

“This idealism and socialism is a big inspiration for me. My parents came out of that, ”she said. His father, Amrit Nair, was a civil servant in the Indian state of Orissa during the same time and shared the same dream of creating a new country.

“It’s important to remember where we’ve come from because we can easily forget,” she said, while the series holds a mirror to current society, it also pushes back against divisive expectations.

For example, it shows the strength of Hindu and Muslim relationships despite political complexities. (Nair herself comes from a Hindu family, while her husband is Muslim.) This includes the friendship between Maan and Feroze, their relationship with Saeda, as well as the intimate romance between Lata and one of her companions, for Kabir Durrani A Muslim person is also involved.

However, the kissing scenes between Lata and Kabir set a stir in India outside a temple. A case has been registered against two executives at Netflix India, where the series is streaming, with some leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party objecting to the scenes over the notion that it hurts religious sentiments.

“A Suitable Boy” also calls into question the authenticity of the narrative, for which some period dramas are made, to be almost entirely in English from some critics.

But Nair said that these criticisms are wrong. He said that the world of the book is also due to the influence of 200 years of English rule.

“If people are feeling disconnected because of the language, it’s also because they are not used to the clear, rich English that was still spoken by the upper caste in Indian cities at that time,” she said. “So whole ‘it’s made for a Firangi [white people] Audience is not accurate.

She said she paid a lot of attention to finding a balance in historical details and cultural nuances, with elite families dancing from Foxtrot and at a club in Kolkata with Hindu and Urdu classical music performed by Saida, a courtesan and psyche lover doing.

Ananya Sen as Kakoli, Tanya Maniktala as Lata, Shahana Goswami as Meenakshi in ‘A Suitable Boy’.Taha Ahmed / Acorn TV

“This is also a big period in itself,” said Nair. “We had to make significant preparations for months to get everything right: sets, costumes, colors.”

Nair said he had tried to capture the original locations of India in the 50s, scouting for real-life locations in the city of Lucknow to find bungalows that he himself grew up in, red oxide floors, arches And complete with garden. .

“A Suitable Boy” consists mostly of the Indian entertainment industry ensemble led by debutant Maniktala, Bollywood star Khattar, acclaimed actress Tabu, as well as prominent actors like Ram Kapoor, Rasika Dugal, Ranveer Shourie, Vijay Raj and Aamir Are included. Bashir.

Nair, who was involved in the casting process, said he is most excited to find this talent for American audiences. The first towers aired in Britain and aired on Netflix in other parts of the world.

“I also hope that everyone can see aspects of themselves in the story. It is not a magical journey or anything – it is a human saga, ”said Nair. “The characters are numerous, human and unpredictable, which makes it believable even if the American audience is not aware of the country’s history or the details of the India-Pakistan partition.”

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