'A Suitable Boy' review: An unsuitable adaptation

Sagar Malik
·3-min read

28 Oct 2020: 'A Suitable Boy' review: An unsuitable adaptation

It is pretty ironic that A Suitable Boy, directed by Mira Nair and now streaming on Netflix, feels exhausting and hurried in equal measure.

That is partly because despite great performances from a tremendous star cast, the six-part miniseries never really comes close to doing justice to its epic source material, the revered novel by Vikram Seth.

Here's our review.

Plot: A tale of newly-independent, post-partition India

A Suitable Boy is based in India during 1951-52, just a few years after the country gained independence as well as witnessed its partition.

It focuses on the lives of four families and the personal and political developments that eventually shape them.

Rupa Mehra (Mahira Kakkar), a widow, is determined to find a "suitable boy" for her youngest daughter, Lata (Tanya Maniktala).

Plot: Modernity confronts tradition in the new India

While Lata, a passionate university student, isn't averse to the idea of getting married, she wants to make sure she chooses the right one from among her three suitors.

The Mehras are related to the Kapoors, an otherwise respected and wealthy family, but "disgraced" by their youngest son Maan (Ishaan Khatter) who takes up a transgressive relationship with a local courtesan, Saeeda Bai (Tabu).

Details: Stunning photography, costuming and sets

A Suitable Boy is stunningly shot, offering breathtaking visuals of the northern parts of the country and Calcutta.

Not just that, the costuming is spot on too, and the sets are elaborately mounted and are simply elegant.

Without doubt, this description would sound good enough to get going with the series, but unfortunately they are among a few things that the show gets right.

Details: There is a lack of authenticity and heart

In A Suitable Boy, most characters speak English most of the time, with many even using mysterious accents.

But the problem is that it robs the show of authenticity and...heart.

Because honestly, even if it's 2020, it is quite difficult to feel for lungi-wearing Indian villagers speaking in English with strange accents, no matter how monumental their problems might be.

Details: It is overwhelming and utterly exhausting

Another issue is that the show has so many characters and subplots, but offers too little time or depth to really understand or feel for them.

It hence becomes an overwhelming and utterly exhausting experience.

This, perhaps, is the case because the 1,500-page source novel, which is longer than even holy books, could never justifiably be fitted into six one-hour episodes.

Performances: Ishaan Khatter shines as Maan Kapoor

It's a shame that some of the most talented actors known to this country are wasted by the series in two-bit roles.

If anyone, Ishaan Khatter's character gets the maximum space for growth and transformation, and he makes the most of it.

He carries Maan, a free-spirited yet troubled young man, with nonchalance and lack of judgement but a sense of sincerity.

Final word: To watch or not to watch?

A Suitable Boy comes off as nothing more than a hurried translation of an epic piece of literature, and hence it is bound to leave you unsatisfied.

It feels more like a showy exhibition for the westerners than a heartfelt tale for those back home.

So, despite some memorable performances, it remains an unsuitable adaptation.

Final rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.