Like everyone in India, I was eagerly waiting for the Netflix series – A Suitable Boy.
The book turned series follows a girl named Lata and her multiple affairs and matches in order to find a suitable boy to marry. The story has a lot to offer – starting from the complexity of relationships to communal riots and harmony to the Indian Land Reform Bill. It is a period drama with an attempt to capture everything that was happening in India back in the ’40s and ’50s.
It is indeed splendid and picturized beautifully but has a lot of stereotypes attached to its characters. Most importantly it defames the entire Bengali community and Kolkata through out its course. Both Writer Vikram Seth and Director Mira Nair are answerable for how they have written and scripted the book and series respectively.
The most typical representation shown in the film is Indian girls and mothers yearning for marriage. But of course one has to keep in mind the timeline in which the story is set – around Indian Independence. At that time, the Indian Society was indeed completely patriarch compelling women to marry over doing anything else.
But there’s a scene in the series where the sister-in-law of the lead actress, Meenakshi played by Shahana Goswami says to her husband’s sister, Lata played by Tanya Maniktala that, “Women have no use of securing first class in college. One can never get men with merit.”
Now, this is something very absurd as Meenaskshi (Shahana) is a Bengali and Bengali women ever since the advent of education in India have always been well-read and educated. Portraying her as a philandering wife, cheating on her husband, dominating and manipulating him, being drunk is all too defaming.
Meenakshi is the prototype of a Bengali wife portrayed by writer Vikram Seth. He has imbibed every kind of assumption the rest of India has about Bengalis in his book. He makes her seem greedy, selfish, flamboyant, and shrewd. Just as that he portrays Meenakshi’s sister Kukoo as an overfed, overacting child who plays around men for pleasure.
Besides the Bengali women, Seth characterizes their brother Amit Chatterjee played by Mikhail Sen as a spoilt brat who leaves his career in law to pursue poetry. What’s ridiculous is that a boy’s choice of career in literature has been deemed futile. On the other hand, Lata pursues English Literature which has been shown in a good light. This might sound like a cliché but Bengalis are the only Indian community to bag a Nobel for literature which was bestowed to Rabindra Nath Tagore who was a man himself.
By and large, Bengalis have been portrayed as the spoilt lot, so is Kolkata. All they show are clubs and parties and nightlife. Oh yes, there were daylight scenes but even they had a lot of loitering and flirting. Each and every frame had a negative connotation.
It was made more obvious when the suitor for Lata – Haresh played by Namit Das blurted out in a scene that, “Bengalis are all talk and no play.”
Vikram Seth was born in Calcutta in 1952. He ends his story’s timeline in the same year. It is quite incomprehensible what made him create his characters this way being born in Calcutta itself.
Likewise, Mira Nair being the director had every right to mend the characters in the book. She is responsible for what has been shown.
Rest, A Suitable Boy is a good watch if you aren’t critical about having read the book. Books always precede the picturization.
All the characters have done an awesome job starting from Tanya Maniktala to Ram Kapoor to Ishan Khatter to Randeep Hooda. Mira Nair has chosen very good looking men for the story. I was crushing on almost all except a few. Tabu is mesmerizing as Saeeda Bai, one can only marvel at her beauty and pensive eyes that call us to hear her story. Ishan Khatter has acted really well and made his mark with just his third on-screen appearance. Ram Kapoor is adorable as Mr.Kapoor. Don’t know how he gets to keep his real name in most of his roles; he gets at least his surname this time.
But it is Lata – Tanya Malhotra – who steals the show. She draws us in with her big expressive eyes and gullible smile. One is lost in her beauty. Having performed in only one web series prior to A Suitable Boy, Tanya seems to be perfectly splendid.
The songs and background music of the series is touching – most of which are Ghazals and Sitar performances by Anoushka Shankar and Alex Heffes.
Fashion Designer Arjun Bhasin has gained instant fame with the series’ release. The comfort clothing range which flashes the aristocracy of the ’50s has left the audience awestruck.
By the way, there’s a Brahmapur in Odisha – the silk city. It matches the name of the town – Brahmpur – in which the story is set.
Just a humble request – please watch this series shedding all stereotypes, only for entertainment.
A Suitable Boy is streaming now on Netflix.