BBC is bringing us a television adaptation of  Vikram Seth’s “A Suitable Boy.” Told with “wit, clarity and love,“ the period drama revolves around Lata, a university student in 1950s India who doesn’t want to marry her mother’s idea of “a suitable boy.”

Lata (Tanya Maniktala) and Mrs Rupa Mehra (Mahira Kakkar) in A Suitable Boy, courtesy BBC

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Torn between family duty and the excitement of romance, Lata embarks on her own epic journey of love and self-discovery.

This may be the perfect thing for those missing “Indian Summers” who also like romance and family sagas: the first-ever screen adaptation of “A Suitable Boy” has been penned as a BBC period drama, by Andrew Davies (Pride and Prejudice, War and Peace, Les Misérables).

The six-episode mini-series is based on the novel by Vikram Seth about four large families living in India in 1951. At their center is Lata (played by Tanya Maniktala), who is coming of age in North India at the same time as the country is carving out its own identity as an independent nation and is about to go to the polls for its first democratic general election.

“A Suitable Boy” promises to be romantic, funny, moving and relatable, fired by Andrew Davies’ mastery of plot and character. Davies said “I am truly thrilled to be chosen by Vikram Seth to adapt his masterpiece for the screen. It’s a charming, almost Austenesque story, with a delightfully relatable heroine, set against the turbulent background of India in the years following Partition.” (Davies knows his Austen – over the years he has written the screenplays for “Pride and Prejudice,” “Emma,” “Northanger Abbey,” “Sense & Sensibility,” and “Sanditon.”)

The vast, panoramic tale charts the fortunes of the families and explores India and its rich and varied culture at a crucial point in its history.

Connected to Lata through their siblings’ marriage, the wayward Maan (Ishaan Khatter) is determined to enjoy life to the full whatever the consequences, much to the concern of his politician father. Worse, he becomes fixated on a courtesan named Saaeda Bai (played by Indian screen legend Tabu, The Namesake, Life of Pi).

Maan (Ishaan Khatter) and Saeeda Bai (Tabu) in a Suitable Boy, courtesy BBC

Their stories unfold during a tumultuous period for India and reflect the wider conflict between tradition and modernity at the time, as the election looms and the country decides its destiny. To “keep the history and dream of an alternate India alive,” Director Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, The Namesake) filmed the period drama “entirely on location in palaces, villages and streets across northern India.” 

Davies shared that “A Suitable Boy” has been “a total joy to work on,” and that he hopes that audiences “will love it as much as I do.”

At 1,535 pages, Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy is one of the longest novels ever published in a single volume in the English language, and made the list of BBC’s 100 novels that shaped our world, in the Family & Friendship category. The adaptation is produced by Lookout Point, also responsible for “Les Misérables“ and “Gentleman Jack.”

Seth admitted “It was with some anxiety that I agreed to my book being put on the screen, but I’m glad I did. With Andrew adapting and Mira directing, I feel that my story is in safe yet inspiring hands.” The “human, funny… sexy chronicle of India” will move authentically between the intimate and the epic, the personal and the political, and the familiar and the extraordinary; all against the stunning backdrop of an India never before brought to life on screen.

“A Suitable Boy” is expected to air on BBC One in 2020. Stay tuned for US premiere dates, and the trailer.

Another set-in-India period series is coming to the US in 2020: “Beecham House.” Read about that here.  

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll want to wander over to The Period Films List. Also see Lesley Nicol talks Beecham House.