A Suitable Boy: Critics welcome BBC’s first drama with all-Asian cast


The main character Lata Mehra is played by Indian actress Tanya Maniktala

BBC One’s new drama A Suitable Boy received wide critical acclaim after its first episode aired on Sunday.

The series, directed by Mira Nair, follows the story of a spirited college student who came of age in North India in 1951.

Andrew Davies’ adaptation of Vikram Seth’s sprawling novel is the first BBC drama to feature an all-Asian cast.

Television critics have called everything from “revolutionary” to “outdated”.

Christopher Stevens of the Daily Mail praised the show, giving it five stars.

“Generations divided by love, scandal and secrets – tick! Extravagant costumes and ostentatious wealth flaunted by two fighting families with million dollar hairstyles – tick! A wrestling match that ends with a dip in the pool – tick! ” he wrote.

The Guardian’s Chitra Ramaswamy also enjoyed the drama, but with a caveat. “He’s handsome, expensive, and groundbreaking in his cast, but Andrew Davies’ adaptation of Vikram Seth’s book still feels uncomfortable the old fashioned way,” she said.

“This may be the first Indian-era drama of its kind in British television history, but it remains an India that British audiences are used to seeing. “

On average, 4.6 million viewers watched the first episode on Sunday night

“A tangy new drama with a hint of cheese,” that’s how Carol Midgley of The Times described it.

“It was an episode full of color, energy and life, which got better and better. Despite the weird cheesy moment, I enjoyed it, and, for the record, episode two isn’t a disappointment. Our new Sunday Night drama also has the added merit of not being The Luminaries, ”she said.

The first episode of A Suitable Boy was watched by an average audience of 4.6 million people on Sunday night.

‘Indian family saga’

On the show, in a newly independent India, passionate literary student Lata Mehra (played by Indian actress Tanya Maniktala) is torn between family duty and the promise of romance as three very different men attempt to win his heart.

It stars a cast of Indian actors including Tabu, Ishaan Khatter, Rasika Dugal and Ram Kapoor.

Some felt, however, that the dialogue would have benefited from having been conducted in their native language throughout, with English subtitles added.

Writer Furquan Akhtar tweeted: “Romance comes to life when they speak Hindi. Tabu is a phenomenal actor. Ishaan Khatter will be a huge star and their chemistry is brilliant. “

In his review in The Guardian, Ramaswamy said: “The actors speak mostly English, with some Urdu and Hindi, and in India there has been mockery of accents.

“These are the oddities of the genre: no one spoke Russian in Davies’ War and Peace, either. It’s just in the midst of our cultural assessment, the old ways start to look downright weird. ”

Ed Cumming of The Independent thought it was a “brilliant and understandable” offer, if not a little inauthentic.

He said it was “a fantastic orange filtered version of India, where the characters speak English with the same Indian accents and no one can do anything without a sitar twang. ”

“This adaptation of Vikram Seth’s 1,300-page epic novel looked promising, but we’ll have to continue to wait for a robust verisimilitude Indian family saga,” he added in his three-star review.

Authenticity was a key word for writer Vikram Seth, who worked with Nair and Davies on the TV version of his book. He told the BBC that he hopes it will have universal appeal, but that it is more important to give a truthful account.

” I hope so. In any case, I don’t think we should consciously try to be exhaustive or universal. If a story is genuine and authentically portrayed, it will reach its audience, ”he said.

“Love, hate, ambition, power, possession, death, remorse, tenderness – these are universal themes and emotions, no matter where and when they are found, or find them in a sari or sarong. ”

The Telegraph’s Anita Singh said it was a job well done, handing out four stars while calling the program a “lavish Sunday night fare.”

“Andrew Davies took all the grease out of Vikram Seth’s massive novel and left us with a wonderful TV series,” she wrote.

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