A Suitable Boy Review Ep 1, 2: Tabu, Ishaan Khatter are outstanding but overindulgent storyline spoils the fun

A Suitable Boy Review Ep 1 and 2: Tabu and Ishaan Khatter's miniseries begins with tad too many storylines so it's hard to keep up while the westernised outlook with a brown cast does little justice to Vikram Seth's iconic 1993 novel. Read the full review below.
A Suitable Boy released today, i.e. October 23, 2020, on NetflixA Suitable Boy Review Ep 1, 2: Tabu, Ishaan Khatter are outstanding but overindulgent storyline spoils the fun
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A Suitable Boy

A Suitable Boy Casr: Tabu, Ishaan Khatter, Tanya Maniktala, Rasika Dugal, Mahira Kakkar, Ram Kapoor

A Suitable Boy Director: Mira Nair

When you're adapting a classic like Vikram Seth's 1993 novel A Suitable Boy, which is more than 1300 pages long, you're welcoming yourself to critique way before the release date. Add to the fact, it's a miniseries of just six one-hour episodes and you're left scratching your head over the mindset of the makers. Mira Nair, for whom family is a forte trope, takes on the challenge with an Indian cast and a British screenwriter.

There will be two types of viewers when it comes to consuming A Suitable Boy; ones who have read the book and the ones who aren't brave enough to master through 1300+ pages. Either way, it's a 'too many cooks spoil the broth' theme right from the get-go as this reviewer went through the first two episodes. By the end of two hours, I was already exhausted and found it a bit tiresome to keep up. For the unversed, the central storyline of A Suitable Boy is like a desi version of Pride and Prejudice where widow Rupa Mehra's (Mahira Kakkar) soul purpose in life is to get her younger daughter Lata (Tanya Maniktala) married to well, a suitable boy. With the caricaturish personality, Rupa could give Mrs. Bennet a run for her money.

On the other hand, we have the Kapoor family's black sheep Maan (Ishaan Khatter) who falls under the charming spell of courtesan Saeeda Bai (Tabu) and begins a forbidden love affair that could prove detrimental to the reputation of his father Mahesh Kapoor (Ram Kapoor) as the state minister of revenue in a post-Independent India. Ep 1 stereotypically begins at the wedding of Lata's sister Savita (Rasika) and Maan's brother Pran (Gagan Dev Riar). You're shown how Rupa and Mahesh are almost common in their pursuit to get their younger kids married.

When it comes to newcomer Tanya's performance as 'the feisty, free-spirited yet shackled by her mother's protectiveness' Lata is an endearing sight until you see her vibrant smile in even the rudest of situations. With the problems surrounding her; in particular, falling in love with a Muslim classmate named Kabir Durrani (Danesh Razvi) which is a big no-no, you'd expect an expression other than pure glee but such was not the case. However, Maniktala does have some underrated moments in the opening episodes where that burst of anguish when it comes to being a strong, independent woman comes blazing through. When she quips at her mother that she's going to run away with a married man, you secretly hope she actually rebels her way through. The opening episodes give a major glimpse at Durrani, with limited character arc while subtly introducing us to Lata's other suitors; Harsh Khanna (Namit Das) and renowned author Amit Chatterji (Mikhail Sen).

The true rockstars of A Suitable Boy, who helped fathom the overdramatic elements is Tabu and Ishaan. I recently read in a British publication review of A Suitable Boy, on how Tabu was referred to as a legendary actress. After watching the first two episodes, I completely agree as it's she who makes the constant jump between English, Urdu and Hindi seem so free-flowing rather than mocking. On the other hand, Khatter is a revelation as he embarks on the path of being a character actor with Maan's boisterous attitude juxtapositioned with his pursuit of purpose in life.

Another earnest act comes for Ram as Mahesh, who plays a central character in the political Hindu-Muslim divide theme (a Maharaja builds a temple right next to a mosque leading to communal unrest) but again, there's a limited sense of depth provided. Speaking of the political aspect, the dialogues are used as a ploy to remind us that we're in an era post-Independence, again and again, while the cheesy lines are redundant in gaining the viewers' interest. The constant parallel between a storyline set in the past but with a modernistic outlook is baffling and forces you into a suspension of disbelief. Given the clearly westernised perspective of Andrew Davies (of War and Peace fame), the accents put on by the talented cast is almost laughable. I come back to the suspension of disbelief point when it comes to the characters switching between English, Urdu and Hindi, which is plain painful to watch. It would have been more purposeful if authentication and staying true to history was worked upon by Nair and Davies. Alas, such was not the case! Moreover, A Suitable Boy deserved at least 10-12 episodes to justify a more genuine adaptation. Nonetheless, A Suitable Boy would make for a good melodramatic romance watch over the weekend with some gorgeous locations and a brilliant background sitar score to keep you company. Even the fashion attires, especially Lata's sarees will be on your radar.

ALSO READ: Ishaan Khatter wishes A Suitable Boy director Mira Nair on her birthday as he shares adorable set photos

'The Crown in Brown," Mira Nair proudly proclaimed A Suitable Boy as. And, that's exactly how it is, unfortunately.

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Anonymous 1 month ago

It’s not Mrs. Darcy - it’s Mrs. Bennet FYI *sigh*

Anonymous 1 month ago

And widow not widower

Anonymous 1 month ago

Just watched it . wow its awesome . reminds me of my gran's first hand accounts of those days of bygone era .