Cast: Fasten your seat belts because there are too many! Tanya Maniktala, Ishaan Khatter, Tabu, Ram Kapoor, Namit Das, Danesh Razvi, Mikhail Sen, Mahira Kakkar, Shahana Goswami, Randeep Hooda, Aamir Bashir, Vijay Varma, Vivaan Shah, Rasika Dugal, Sheeba Chaddha, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Manoj Pahwa, Vijay Raaz, Ranvir Shorey (told you so!)
Creator: Mira Nair (& Shimit Amin directs one episode)
Star Rating: 3/5 stars
A Suitable Boy Review: What Is It About?
It’s a MAHA-SAGA between four families consisting of Mehras, Kapoors, Chatterjees and Khans. Acting as an anthology, all the families have a different story going for them, and all those stories are tightened by marriage and family values. Mehras are looking for a suitable boy for Lata (Tanya Maniktala), Kapoors’ younger son Maan Kapoor (Ishaan Khatter) finds his suitable girl in courtesan Saeeda Bai (Tabu), Chatterjees & Khans get interconnected with both of the above families as the story progresses.
A Suitable Boy Review: What’s Good & Bad?
Well, Vikram Seth’s novel is of 1,488 pages (softcover), has around 591,552 words, consists of 19 chapters covering over 100 characters. Does Moral Nira’s attempt at bringing all those down to 6 nearly one-hour episodes do the justice? This question has two answers. First one being, if you have the time and content enough to go through the book, there’s no doubt why you shouldn’t do that? But, if you’re planning to binge-watch expecting to have a similar experience, you won’t. The answer doesn’t end yet. But, what you get in return to ‘watch’ the story instead of reading it is some incredible performances.
Mira Nair gives a face to all the simply complicated characters conceived by Vikram Seth. She does a brilliant job at setting up the scene but falters a bit at managing too much in such a short span of episodes. Vikram’s novel demands detailing, and Mira brings a whole of it in her style, proving why she’s the best filmmaker even to attempt something so well-entangled. Yes, she gets a helping hand in the writing department by Andrew Davie (House Of Cards). Still, I feel he did deserve someone like Varun Grover or a Prakash Kapadia to partner him for a more varied and diverse understanding of the topic.
The language transition dampens the required impact & it doesn’t get any better as I hoped it would. I watched the first couple of episodes in English but then switched it to Hindi, and both of them are compromised due to the decision of keeping the target audience as the western audience. It’s more confusing because the sets (by Stephanie Carroll) and costumes (by Arjun Bhasin) are as Indian as they could get. Amid all this, you won’t expect the villagers to speak in English to each other. It just doesn’t match what you see. Alex Heffes and Anoushka Shankar’s music (additional music by Namit Das) should’ve held more importance than it did. I was expecting a few good numbers/BGM score from it, which I didn’t get.
A Suitable Boy Star Performances
Due to a couple-dozen caste, let’s divide this section into two parts – first one being the ones who are really important to the proceedings. Starting with Tanya Maniktala, she’s the best thing which has happened to the show of course after the decision of adapting Vikram Seth’s novel. She is illuminating! An example of perfect casting and I’m sure Seth must be delighted for her to be Lata of his story.
I walked in with huge hopes from Ishaan Khatter being a fan of his work till date, and he doesn’t disappoint. Extra marks for him and Tanya to attempt something like this at such initial stage of their career. Ishaan proves to be a suitable actor to play Maan Kapoor. Tabu’s character Saeeda Bai holds equal importance as Maan. When you read Saeeda Bai’s character, Madhubala and then Tabu are the first two actors that will pop in your mind to match her grace. Tabu holds every trait that was required to pray Saeeda Bai.
Ram Kapoor is subtle throughout and shares great chemistry in his scenes with Ishaan. Namit Das does a commendable job as the suitable boy of the show. The most handsome character has to be Danesh Razvi. His pairing with Tanya helps to develop the connection with their characters. Mikhail Sen handles the delicacy of his character with an impeccable charm. Pairing Vijay Varma and Vijay Raaz’s character together also remains an underrated masterstroke by the makers. Both of them retain the excellency of their usual brilliant skills.
Mahira Kakkar goes melodramatic at places, is fine otherwise. Unfortunately, Shahana Goswami is restricted just to bring in the oomphness and so does Randeep Hooda. Vivaan Shah starts well but never gets the required boost due to lack of focus in sketching his character. The remarkable talents such as Rasika Dugal, Sheeba Chaddha, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Manoj Pahwa, Ranvir Shorey remain underutilised.
A Suitable Boy Review: Last Words
All said and done, A Suitable Boy is a little more than being a visual delight. Not your usual popcorn-muncher, but it’s more of a ‘let’s watch a mini-series’ without binge-watching it. Brilliant performances, technically awesome!