TIFF 2020 film, A Suitable Boy is a struggle to balance family duty with personal choice

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Toronto, Sep 23 (Canadian-Media): Directed by Mira Nair, the recipient of the Jeff Skoll Award in Impact Media for her Vikram Seth’s six-part drama series adaptation, ‘A Suitable Boy’, presents an adaptation of a young Indian woman Lata Mehra (Tanya Maniktala) struggles to create a balance between family duty and personal independence in post-partition India.

Image: A Suitable Boy. Image credit: TIFF

19-year-old, Lata is under pressure by her parents to get married but while at school, she comes across a Muslim boy Kabir (Danesh Razvi), and falls in love with him.

But Lata’s love life is being dictated by her mother (Mahira Kakkar), while Maan’s father (Ram Kapoor) attempts to make him more politically engaged. Both young people burdened with their parents’ expectations try to find their independence. The political landscape of a country in transition is reflected by the rebellious energy of Lata and Maan as well as by the escalation of tensions shown in the background between Hindus and Muslims due to the construction of a mosque right next to a temple.

It is through the eyes and experiences of Indian characters, and not through colonial perspective, that Mira tells the story of people’s search in a newly partitioned nation,

Mira, an absolute master of story-telling at its global reach, in her award acceptance speech during the 2020 TIFF Tribute Award ceremony said, “I have often said that if we don’t tell our own stories, no one else will.”

Nair and Davies’ main focus was on two of the novel’s central characters, Lata and Maan Kapoor (Ishaan Khatter).

Seth’s novel is in English, and although many of the characters speak it fluently, Nair realized that the English language would be a problem for rural India, was in search of characters defined by other languages.

It was then that Nair introduced Saeeda Bai (played by Indian performer Tabu), a musician and courtesan, whose entire life is dedicated to singing and poetry in Urdu.

Captivated by Saeeda Bai’s performance Kapoor family’s youngest son, Maan falls in love with her.

Saeeda Bai serves yet another purpose. Her artistry links with both Hindu and Muslim culture since Indian classical music for the past several hundred years has been influenced by practitioners from both religions

The two Hindu-Muslim romances — Maan’s involvement with Saeeda Bai, and Lata’s courtship Kabir — spark great controversy in the community and is quickly suppressed by the social and familial pressure to keep to their own cultures.

Lata’s wish early in the series, to never be married, was rejected by her family. The novel ends with her marriage like a compromise and Lata’s ending is not exactly a romantic one showing that family, society, and duty play a much bigger role in one’s decisions than personal choice.

Lata’s search of her identity reflects the country’s effort to step into its own identity, making A Suitable Boy not just the story of one woman’s choice but an entire country’s future and features an entirely South Asian cast.

Produced by Lydia Dean Pilcher, Aradhana Seth and executive produced by Mira Nair, Andrew Davies, Vikram Seth, Faith Penhale, Laura Lankester, Will Johnston, Lydia Dean Pilcher, and Aradhana Seth, and filmed in India, the casts of the film ‘A Suitable Boy’ are Tabu, Ishaan Khatter, Tanya Maniktala, Mahira Kakkar

Born in Rourkela, India, and now living in New York, Nair studied at Delhi University and Harvard University. Her feature films include the Academy Award-nominated Salaam Bombay! (88), Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love (96), the Venice Golden Lion winner Monsoon Wedding (01), The Namesake (06), The Reluctant Fundamentalist (12), and Queen of Katwe (16), all TIFF selections. A Suitable Boy (20) is her latest work for television

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