For the unversed, as of now, the first episode is launched on BBC One in UK & Ireland. In India, Netflix will be airing probably all the six episodes bundled sometime in September. It explores the early 1950s when on asking, “May I walk with you?” you’d probably get a, “Sure, India is a free country now.”
After a marriage among two wealthy families (Kapoors and Mehras), we understand Mahesh Kapoor (Ram Kapoor) is the Revenue Minister who’s a mutual friend to both the sides and in stuck in the debate of ‘Mandir or Masjid’. Mira Nair welcomes you to her vision of India as a recently freed country with the quote, “When India became independent in 1947, it was partitioned into two countries. India was free, but the land and the people were divided forever.”
Debut episode takes off with the three parallel tracks that will be explored in the further episodes. We see Mukesh Kapoor’s son Maan Kapoor (Ishaan Khatter) falling for Saeeda Bai (Tabu), the courtesan and singer. Lata (newcomer Tanya Maniktala), being advised against falling for a ‘Muslim’ Kabir (Danesh Razvi). The debate of ‘Mandir or Masjid’ getting heated up.
Following the love of Mira Nair’s ‘over the shoulder’ shot, Declan Quinn’s camera explodes eye-pleasing colours thanks to Akshita Ahire’s sensational sets. Just one episode down, the pace with Mira Nair settled down is not slow. Things take their own sweet time to come around, but once they do, they make sure you succumb to it.
A marriage, a Holi function, a mushaira – in just about an hour Mira covers these events to set the tone of the series going ahead. The ‘civil service bungalows’, Saeeda Bai’s Haveli and the not-so-crowded streets of Calcutta, it doesn’t hide behind the rusticity of the era but instead shines bright in every colour (preferably the pastels) and every frame. Alex Heffes and Anoushka Shankar’s soundtrack complements the mood and is a major scene-lifter at many places.
The three ‘out-there’ performers of this episode would surely be Ishaan Khatter, Tabu and Tanya Maniktala. The magical aura Mira has tried to create around Tabu’s Saeeda Bai is embraced eternally by Ishaan’s impeccable presence. His effortless charm syncs in well with Tabu’s irresistible candour.
Still, the biggest takeaway for me from this episode will remain Tanya Maniktala. Apart from the fact that she’s every last bit of beautiful, Tanya manages to fit in the emotional bracket of Vikram Seth’s Lata so well. I’m pretty much confident that Mira Nair will make sure to drool us all over Tanya’s talent by the end of this.
All said and done, even if you aren’t a sucker for period dramas, just try this debut episode of A Suitable Boy because this is going to be more than just history.